In a fall in which some National Football League teams are having trouble filling their stadiums, a ticketing success story is being written in a market where college football is king.
Of course, there’s a big difference between the NFL and the United Football League (UFL), a minor league that is in its second season and has just five teams. But the success of the Omaha Nighthawks may go a long way towards ensuring the UFL doesn’t go the way of the long-gone likes of the World Football League, United States Football League and the WWE’s XFL.
The Nighthawks have sold out all three of their home games at 24,000-seat Rosenblatt Stadium and have been such a hit in Omaha that UFL Commissioner Michael Huyghue not only awarded this year’s championship game to the city but also said that the league would like to expand to similarly sized markets.
“Omaha has redefined the long-range vision of the UFL,” Huyghue told the league’s official Web site last month. “It’s given us greater insight into where we belong.”
The UFL has also fared well in mid-sized Sacramento, where the Mountain Lions have averaged 17,500 fans in three games at 21,195-seat Hornet Stadium, and Hartford, where the Colonials have averaged 14,303 fans in three games at 40,000-seat Rentschler Field.
Huyghue said the league is considering Wichita, KS and Des Moines, IA as expansion teams for next season — a decided shift from the WFL, USFL and even the Arena Football League, the latter of which began in smaller markets but eventually suspended operations after expanding to NFL cities. The AFL resumed play this season, with several of its 19 teams located in non-NFL markets.
The most expensive UFL ticket is less than $50 and three teams — Hartford, Sacramento and Las Vegas — offer tickets for as little as $15 each.