Portland Thunder brings football to Oregon (again)

They say when it rains, it pours.

That seems to be the case for the buzz about professional football in Portland this month.

First, there’s a new Arena Football League team in town, the Portland Thunder. The new indoor football franchise will host a kickoff party tonight and plays its first home game and AFL season debut at the Moda Center on Monday.

Feeding some local fan interest, the Thunder has five players on its roster who played college football in Oregon – including quarterback Darron Thomas, who led the Oregon Ducks to the NCAA title game just three years ago.

The Thunder’s coaching staff includes head coach Matthew Sauk; offensive/defensive line coach Clay Harrell and defensive coordinator William Mulder.

Game tickets can be purchased, in the range of $15 to $200 based on location.

The first game Monday is versus San Jose at 7 p.m.

It’s a second go-round for the AFL in Portland. The Forest Dragons played in the (former) Rose Garden in 1997-99.

Before that, Portland was home to two major-league pro football franchises: the Breakers of the United States Football League (USFL) for one season in 1985 before the team, then the league, folded financially; and, a decade earlier, the Storm (then Thunder) of the World Football League, in 1974-75 before the WFL collapsed in mid-season 1975.

Now, prospects for an actual National Football League team relocating here has football fever again rising in the area.

The unknown future of the Oakland Raiders, for one example, has many observers pointing out that Portland should be considered seriously as a landing site. Recent success of the Ducks, and even the Super Bowl-champion Seattle Seahawks, has spiked interest in that possibility. And, Portland remains the largest U.S. market with only one “major league” sport (MLS soccer not included).

There’s an official website, titled “NFL to Portland”: nfltoportland.com.

By Thursday, more than 2,650 people had signed an online petition to Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber asking him to “actively explore bringing an NFL team to Oregon.” Football supporters want the state and local governments to study the feasibility of stadium development, which probably would require significant public funding.

At least one local mayor has expressed interest in a stadium project.

Lou Ogden is mayor of the Portland suburb of Tualatin, home to the practice facility for the National Basketball Association Trail Blazers.

Ogden told KXTG-AM radio on Monday that local leaders should, and likely would, welcome the possibility of bringing an NFL team to Oregon.

What community wouldn’t want to say we’ve got the Portland, or whatever they are, NFL football team in our community?” Ogden said. “That’s a great feather, that’s a great national attraction. It promotes your economic development with companies wanting to locate in the area. It’s name recognition — I mean, what has Nike done for Portland in terms of name recognition?” he said, with regards to Nike’s impact on the metro area.

As the Thunder kick off their AFL season, could real lightning strike for Portland football fans?

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