After a two-season hiatus, the Georgia Force will be returning to the Arena at Gwinnett Center in 2011.
A news conference is scheduled for Monday afternoon at the Arena "to announce a new sports team," according to a press release issued by the arena Friday. The announcement is expected to provide details of the team's return to the Duluth venue.
Scheduled to be in attendance at that news conference are Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau Chairman Tommy Hughes, county commission Chairman Charles Bannister and arena representative Chris Hendley, and the president and head coach of the new team are expected to be introduced.
Hendley, reached by phone late Friday afternoon, declined comment until Monday's news conference.
Hughes could not confirm the new team will be an AFL team, but did confirm the Arena has been in negotiations with an ownership group looking to bring arena football back to Gwinnett.
"I know (the arena) has been negotiating with (the AFL) about bringing (a team) back," Hughes said. "But I don't know any particulars (about the press conference). All I know is they've asked me to be at the press conference and say a few words."
AFL officials could not be reached for comment, but sources familiar with the situation have indicated the new team will be the former Alabama Vipers, a member of the revamped indoor football league that returned to play this summer after suspending operations for the 2009 season. The team is currently based in Huntsville, Ala., but will relocate to the Arena at Gwinnett Center.
A source also indicated the relocated team will retain the use of the Georgia Force name, colors and logo.
The original Georgia Force came to metro Atlanta in 2002 after relocating from Nashville, Tenn.
The team alternated playing at Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta and the Arena at Gwinnett Center over the next seven seasons -- including the final season at the arena in 2008 -- and won three division titles in their last four seasons, including a berth in the 2005 Arena Bowl.
The new league currently features 15 teams, including several teams in former AFL markets, such as the Arizona Sidewinders, Chicago Rush, Cleveland Gladiators, Orlando Predators and Tampa Bay Storm.
Other teams currently competing in the league include the Bossier-Shreveport (La.) BattleWings, Dallas Vigilantes, Iowa (Des Moines) Barnstormers, Jacksonville Sharks, Milwaukee Iron, Oklahoma City Yard Dawgz, Spokane (Wash.) Shock, Tulsa Talons and Utah (Salt Lake City) Blaze.
Tampa Bay and Spokane were set to play in this year's Arena Bowl late Friday night in Spokane.
While nothing will be made official publicly until Monday's news conference, the prospect of Arena Football returning to Gwinnett County has sparked excitement among some local football fans.
"I love it. I'll be the first one there again buying front-row seats," said Gwinnett Football League president Erik Richards, who has bought season tickets each year of the Force's existence. "I love the entertainment of the sport and the accessibility of the players. I've developed unbelievable relationships with the players we've had here.
"And the Gwinnett Arena without a doubt is the finest facility to watch an arena game. It's better than any place in this country. It's better than the 20 arenas I went to when I traveled with (the Force) in the past."