The Tampa Bay Storm were a professional arena football
team based in Tampa
, U.S. that played in the Arena Football League
(AFL). The team, along with the Chicago Bruisers
, Denver Dynamite
and Washington Commandos
, joined the AFL in 1987 as one of the charter franchises, and by 1992 it was the last of the four still operating. The team ceased operations in December 2017.
The franchise was originally located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
, and known as the Pittsburgh Gladiators. The franchise relocated to Tampa Bay
in 1991, changing its name in the process. The team played in St. Petersburg
from 1991 to 1996, then in Tampa until 2008, after which point the AFL suspended operations and did not return until the 2010 season following the league's restructuring. It had been in the same city for longer than any other AFL team. During its tenure the franchise won five ArenaBowl
championships. With 241 wins, the Storm had won far more games than any other team in AFL history.
The club was last owned by Jeffrey Vinik
, also the owner of the NHL
's Tampa Bay Lightning
. Home games were played at Amalie Arena
The Storm holds the Arena Football League record for the longest tenure by a franchise in a single market area. It was also the last of the original four franchises (the Chicago Bruisers
, Denver Dynamite
and Washington Commandos
were the other three) to have operated in continuous existence from the formation of the league in 1987 until the present decade before ceasing operations.
Pittsburgh Gladiators (1987–1990)
When arena football
was first announced in 1986, Jim Foster
targeted Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
for an inaugural franchise due to the great football tradition of the area. The franchise was originally known as the Pittsburgh Gladiators, and was one of the original four AFL teams formed in 1987
. The team was named by Robert Ninehouser whose entry for the team name was selected in 1987. They originally played their home games at the Pittsburgh Civic Arena
in Pittsburgh. On June 19, 1987, the Gladiators defeated the Washington Commandos
48–46 in the first ever AFL regular season game. The Gladiators participated in ArenaBowl
, losing both.
Moving to St. Petersburg (1991–1994)
The team moved from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
to St. Petersburg, Florida
, with the team taking on the "Storm" nickname. The Cleveland
Arena Football League franchise now bears the Gladiators name; however, other than the coincidental names the two organizations shared no link in histories.
The Storm won the ArenaBowl in its first season in Tampa Bay (V
) and has won four subsequent championships (VII
, and XVII
). Up to the 2006 season, the Storm had qualified for the playoffs in every season but one during their time in Tampa Bay.
The team played in the former ThunderDome in St. Petersburg
(now called Tropicana Field
) from 1991–1996
, becoming its first regular team sports tenant.
, the team played its home games in the Amalie Arena
(previously the ''Ice Palace'', ''St. Pete Times Forum'', and ''Tampa Bay Times Forum'') which is located in Tampa
Tim Marcum era (1995–2010)
After the 1994 season, Greis sold the team to Peter "Woody" Kern
Kern's first move as the Storm owner was the hiring of coach Tim Marcum
who is widely regarded as the greatest coach in Arena Football history.
On March 14, 2002, Kern had the opportunity to sell the Storm, receiving an offer from Michigan mortgage broker Thom Hopper for what was then a record price of $12 million. Hopper submitted two payments totaling $1.6 million before Kern regained possession of the team. Later in 2006, Hopper pleaded guilty to federal wire fraud charges that authorities say resulted from his attempt to buy the Storm. He was sentenced in January to nearly three years in prison and ordered to pay at least $1.8 million in restitution to a title insurance company, according to media reports.
On December 23, 2004, ''Sports Illustrated
'' wrote in its 'The 10 Spot' feature that the AFL's players' union filed a grievance
against the Storm. The reason was that seven of the Storm's players claimed that some of the diamond
s in their 2003 AFL championship rings were fake. Six of the seven players had left the team after the 2003 season. The Storm acknowledged that some of the rings did, in fact, include cubic zirconia
instead of diamonds, and that different players received greater amounts of diamonds in their rings based on their contributions that season.
The Storm ended the 2006 season
with a 7–9 record (4th in their Division), ending a 19-year streak of playoff appearances, dating back to their days as the Gladiators and the start of the Arena Football League
In December 2007, Kern sold 51% of his stake in the Storm to Robert Nucci for just over $9.6 million, while still maintaining control of the other 49%.
The Storm followed a 9–7 season and first-round playoff exit in 2007
with an 8–8 finish in 2008
. The team salvaged the .500 record by defeating the Los Angeles Avengers
72–47 in Tampa. There was no 2009 Arena Football League season due to the league's ongoing financial difficulties, which resulted in its filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy
, later converted to Chapter 11
, leaving it uncertain if the Storm, arguably the most successful team in the history of any form of indoor football
, would ever play another game.
New AFL (2010–2017)
A new arena football league, originally called Arena Football 1, formed in 2009. The Storm was not one of the initial 16 teams announced. However, Bossier-Shreveport Battle Wings
owner Dan Newman mentioned that the Storm were one of at least two former AFL franchises that were being negotiated with, the other being the San Jose SaberCats
. The new organization bought the rights to the intellectual property
, including the team names, logos, histories, and patented rules of the old AFL in a bankruptcy auction, which allowed it to function essentially as a full successor; after this action, the name Arena Football 1 was dropped and the group resumed operating as the Arena Football League. The Storm resumed full operations for the new league's 2010 season, with some players from the former roster, and once again coached by Tim Marcum and this time owned by Tampa Bay Storm Partners LLC, a group led by Todd Boren, a previous partner with the Orlando Predators and the Arizona Rattlers. The AFL released the schedule for the season on December 31, 2009. The Storm returned during the opening weekend of the season on April 3, 2010. On February 17, 2010, it was formally announced that the AF1 had adopted the former Arena Football League name.
In the 2010 season
the Storm went 11–5, finishing second in the South Division. In the playoffs, they earned a trip to ArenaBowl XXIII
, but lost to the Spokane Shock
On February 17, 2011, Marcum would resign as head coach of the Storm less than a month before the 2011 season
was to begin, after having the position for 15 years. He left as the AFL's all-time winningest head coach with 211 wins. Dave Ewart
was named as the team's new head coach the next day. His resignation was sparked by an admission in a deposition related to a lawsuit he had filed against the Storm's previous owner, Robert Nucci. In that deposition, Marcum admitted to forwarding emails that were pornographic and racially tinged to other members of the Storm organization, using his work email address. In April 2011, former Tampa Bay Buccaneers
linebacker Derrick Brooks
became a part owner and the team president for the Storm. After a 7–4 start to the 2013 season, the Storm lost the final seven games of the season, but still qualified for the postseason.
The Storm played well in their playoff game, but came up just short against the Jacksonville Sharks
The team's collapse lead to the firing of Ewart.
One month later, the team announced they had promoted offensive coordinator
, and Storm legend Lawrence Samuels
to the team's head coach. Samuels and the Storm mutually agreed to part ways in August 2016. On October 25, 2016, Ron James
was named the head coach. In 2017, the Storm finished the regular season with a 10–4 record and later advanced to ArenaBowl XXX
, where they lost to the Philadelphia Soul
by a score of 44–40.
In December 2017, the Storm announced it was ceasing operations due to increasing operating costs combined with decreasing team revenue. Ownership did not rule out future participation in a "stronger, reinvented AFL." The Storm was the last of the original four AFL teams to cease operations.
* In a 1996 playoff game against the Arizona Rattlers the Storm had the lead late in the game, but the Rattlers came down the field and scored a touchdown with little time left on the clock. Rather than try to tie the game with an extra point, Rattlers coach Danny White
elected to go for the win with the two-point conversion. Quarterback Sherdrick Bonner
was stopped short and the Storm won the game. On the AFL's 20 Greatest Highlights this is ranked at number 10.
* During a 1991 regular season game, the Storm found themselves down 17 points against the Albany Firebirds. However, they rallied late in the game to take a 57–53 lead. But it wasn't over yet as the Firebirds had five seconds left to come up with the touchdown from midfield. The Storm won the game with an interception off of the nets. On the AFL's 20 Greatest Highlights Countdown, this is ranked #8.
* ArenaBowl V
found the Detroit Drive hosting the Tampa Bay Storm. With seconds left in the game, quarterback Jay Gruden
threw deep to Stevie Thomas in the endzone. It was complete, and the Storm won the ArenaBowl. On the AFL's 20 Greatest Highlights Countdown, this is ranked number 5.
* Stevie Thomas saves the Storm: During a 1995 semifinal game between Albany and Tampa Bay,
took a late one-point lead with seconds left on the clock. On the ensuing kickoff the Storm couldn't field the ball off the nets and Stevie Thomas found himself in the very back of the endzone. Thomas broke five tackles at once coming out of the endzone and went all the way for a touchdown to give the Storm the win 56–49. They later went on to capture their 3rd ArenaBowl in 5 years. On the AFL's 20 Greatest Highlights Countdown, this is at #2.
* On March 16, 2012, the Storm became the first AFL team to win 200 games in league history with a 50–47 victory over the Georgia Force
*The Storm had a heated rivalry with the Orlando Predators
known as the War on I-4
. Both teams found success and faced each other in the ArenaBowl and playoffs numerous times.
Arena Football Hall of Famers
The following Gladiators/Storm players were named to All-Arena
* QB Willie Totten
(1), Jay Gruden
(2), Peter Tom Willis
(1), Brett Dietz
* FB/LB Lynn Bradford
(1), Andre Bowden
(3), Cedric McKinnon
(1), Les Barley
* WR Joe Hills
(1), T. T. Toliver
* WR/DB Russell Hairston
(1), Mike Stoops
(1), Alvin Williams
(1), Thomas Monroe
(1), Julius Dawkins
(1), Melvin Cunningham
* WR/LB Stevie Thomas
(1), Lawrence Samuels
* OL Tom Kaleita
(1), George Bussey
* DL Tim McGill
(3), Jermaine Smith
* OL/DL Craig Walls
(2), Keith Browner
(1), Tom Gizzi
(1), Deatrich Wise
(1), Kent Wells
(2), Willie Wyatt
(4), Sylvester Bembery
(2), Rod Williams
(1), B. J. Cohen
(1), Nyle Wiren
* LB Lawrence Samuels
(1), Cliff Dukes
* DB James Harrell
* K Matt Black
* DS Corey Dowden
(1), Tracey Perkins
(2), Johnnie Harris
(1), Tommy Henry
(1), Omarr Smith
* OS/KR Stevie Thomas
(1), James Bowden
The following Gladiators/Storm players were named to All-Ironman Teams:
* FB/LB Les Barley
(1), Andre Bowden
(1), Torrance Marshall
* WR/DB T. T. Toliver
* WR/LB Lawrence Samuels
* OL/DL B. J. Cohen
The following Gladiators/Storm players were named to All-Rookie Teams:
* QB Brett Dietz
* OL/DL Al Lucas
* OS Charles Wilson
* DS Tommy Henry
* K Matt Huerkamp
Coaches of note
The Storm created an official cheerleading squad called the "Storm Cheerleaders."
Radio and television
The Tampa Bay Storm games were broadcast on Storm Radio, which was on 1250-AM WHNZ
. The final radio play-by-play announcer was Darek Sharp
, who was also a producer and broadcaster for AM 620 WDAE, and the radio color commentator was Ian Beckles
Official websiteTampa Bay Storm at ArenaFanPittsburgh Gladiators at ArenaFan
Category:1991 disestablishments in Florida
Category:2017 disestablishments in Florida