Arena Football League (2011-2014)
Born: 2010 – Arena Football League expansion franchise.
Died: November 17, 2014 – The Power cease operations.
Arena: CONSOL Energy Center
- 2011-2013 Matt Shaner, Lance Shaner & Lynn Swann
- 2014: Matt Shaner, Lynn Swann and Trib Total Media (Ralph Martin, et al.)
The now-defunct Pittsburgh Power were the second attempt to establish an Arena Football League franchise in the Steel City. The Power followed in the footsteps of the Pittsburgh Gladiators (1987-1990). Both teams lasted for four seasons before departing the Pittsburgh scene.
The Power started out relatively strong. Ex-Steelers legend Lynn Swann was a minority owner in the team and made numerous community and press appearances as the face of the franchise. The Power debuted in Pittsburgh on March 11, 2011 against the Philadelphia Soul. The Soul rivalry seemed to have great promise. Like the Power, the Soul were fronted by a local NFL hero, Ron Jaworski. The Philadelphia franchise was founded in 2004 by Jon Bon Jovi (though he was no longer involved by 2011) and had enjoyed a large and passionate following for many years. 13,904 fans showed up in Pittsburgh for the home opener and were rewarded with a high-scoring overtime thriller. The Soul escaped with a 58-52 win.
Attendance – at least the announced figures – stayed relatively strong in Pittsburgh during the 2011 season. The Power veraged 9,802 fans for nine dates, although the team would never again top the crowd for the franchise’s first game. The Power finished 9-9 and narrowly missed the playoffs.
Whatever good feeling carried over from the debut season, it all evaporated at the dawn of the 2012 season. The AFL was embroiled in a clumsy struggle with its nascent player union over player pay and benefits. At the time, most non-quarterback AFL players earned $400 per game – the same paltry paychecks that players got a quarter century earlier when the league formed in the late 1980’s. Just hours before the Power’s 2012 season opener on the road in Orlando, Florida, team owner Matt Shaner fired the entire team of 24 players during the team’s pre-game meal at a central Florida Olive Garden. A handful of players who agreed to renounce the union were re-signed right before game time. The rest of the roster was filled out with local scabs that were secretly working out in Florida for both the Power and the Predators during the week.
The owner of the Predators pulled the same stunt, firing his entire team in the hours before the game. But it was Shaner and the Power who became national laughing stocks. The punch-line perfect setting of an Olive Garden combined with Shaner’s stunning decision to abandon the released Power players in Central Florida made the story irresistible to Deadspin, Yahoo! Sports and other pop culture outlets.
Busting labor unions with scab workers might not be the best look in a city like Pittsburgh, where the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was born in 1881. Whether because of the Olive Garden fallout or simply the novelty of a new team wearing off, attendance plummeted 44% in 2012 to just over 5,000 fans per game. The team was also terrible finishing in last place with a 5-13 record.
2013 was another grim season for the Power, with a 4-14 record and attendance again languishing near the bottom of the league.
2014 seemed to bring a reinvigoration of the Power franchise. Trib Total Media, owner of The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and other papers, acquired a “multi-million dollar” ownership stake in the team, with Shaner and Swann staying on as well. A lease extension with CONSOL Energy Center was announced. The Power turned over virtually the entire roster, acquiring a group of talented league veterans led by 2012 AFL Most Valuable Player Tommy Grady at quarterback. The team had a fantastic turnaround on the field, going 15-3 and earning a first ever postseason berth. The Power were upset by the Orlando Predators in the first round of the playoffs.
The circumstances around the demise of the team are murky. In October 2014, the main news outlet still covering the AFL, the well-sourced fan site ArenaFan.com, reported that new league Commissioner Scott Butera fined the Power $100,000 for salary cap violations. The league later sort-of denied the report. One month later, on November 17, 2014, team owner Matt Shaner abruptly announced that the team was disbanding after four seasons. No reason was given for the closure.
==Pittsburgh Power Games on Fun While It Lasted==
|2011||3/11/2011||vs. Philadelphia Soul||L 58-52 (OT)||Program|
|2011||7/22/2011||@ Philadelphia Soul||L 61-48||Program|
|2012||6/24/2012||@ Philadelphia Soul||L 69-34||Program|
|2013||5/11/2013||@ Philadelphia Soul||W 53-48||Program|
|2014||6/14/2014||@ Philadelphia Soul||W 57-56||Program|
Pittsburgh Power 2011 Inaugural Season Review Video