Last season the Utah Blaze unknowingly played their last snap in the Arena Football League.
A franchise gone in an instant, due to a few rule changes at the request of the league. The Blaze had some financial issues and were nearly evicted from the Energy Solutions Arena at the midpoint of the season, but an unnamed investor stepped in to put the team above water.
The unknown investor also pre-paid for the team to remain in Utah for the 2014 season, but nothing was said about the 2015 season.
After last season concluded and the Arizona Rattlers went on to win their second straight Arena Bowl Title, the league shook things up with some teams, requesting a two-year committal in their current situations.
Because the Blaze could not commit to two seasons, the league had no choice but to fold the team.
Speculation soon began around Salt Lake that the league itself was the unknown investor, and that they shut the team down to avoid embarrassment, but those rumors could never be confirmed.
Some players began voicing their concerns on social media about the changes when the rumors circulated, and we reached out to the team at that time.
We were told that reports of a shutdown were inaccurate and the team was resuming business as usual.
That was until the AFL released to the press that they had shuffled around their divisions, and the Utah Blaze were not listed on any releases, and were deleted from the AFL’s official website.
After the news was official, I reached out to a source close to the team that confirmed the club was going through some issues, but would return to the fans of Salt Lake.
After that conversation, everything went silent for months until I reached out to the Blaze’s majority owner, Kim Brown, who informed me that the Blaze are doing everything in their power to return to the Arena League in 2015.
I was forwarded to another owner, Logan Hunter, who I was told has taken on the duty of a new deal to get the team to return in due time, but I have yet to receive a response to many requests.
As I have been told by multiple people, the Blaze are not finished in Utah and they’ll be trying for a return in 2015. The AFL is attempting to build, with two new franchises in Portland and Los Angeles this season. They’ll likely welcome the team back should all their ducks be in a row.
When the team was officially shut down by the league, they held a special draft in which players from the team were scattered across the league. Tommy Grady, the 2012 AFL MVP ended up in Pittsburgh with his right-hand-man receiver Aaron LeSue, and they were just recently joined by former coach, and co-owner of the Blaze, Ron James.
When the teams returns, it will be interesting to see how they build from the ground up.
This wouldn’t be the first time the Blaze have had to start anew. They shut the doors in 2008 to return as the Utah Valley Thunder in 2009, then brought back the Blaze name in 2010 to when they again folded in 2013.
Attempts have been made to contact other owners of the team, but they have not been successful. Be on the lookout for updates to the story.
There is a Facebook page titled “Bring Back Utah Blaze” that has fans asking to bring back the team. Go give them a like, and stay tuned for updates along the way.