Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘Richfield Coliseum’ tag

April 5, 1986 – Cleveland Force vs. Minnesota Strikers

leave a comment

1986 Cleveland Force ProgramCleveland Force vs. Minnesota Strikers
April 5, 1986
Richfield Coliseum
Attendance: 20,174

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs


Always been especially fond of game programs with illustrated art, like this 1986 soccer mag that arrived at FWiL this week. They were commonplace at both the major and minor league levels until the late 1980’s, when the rise of cheap graphic design software packages drove the final nail in the coffin of hand-drawn cover artwork.

This game day mag comes from an historic match in the Major Indoor Soccer League. The popular Cleveland Force (1978-1988) took on the visiting Minnesota Strikers (1984-1988) in the regular season finale of the 1985-86 season.  The Saturday evening contest pulled a massive announced crowd of 20,174.  At the time it was the largest crowd ever to watch an indoor soccer match, surpassing the previous record of 19,398 set by the Chicago Sting of the NASL at Chicago Stadium in 1982.

Ali Kazemaini Cleveland ForceThe Force didn’t disappoint, treating their fans to a 7-4 victory that clinched their first division title after seven seasons in the MISL. Ali Kazemaini led the way for the hosts, scoring a hat trick with his 36th, 37th and 38th goals of the 1985-86 campaign.

Cleveland and Minnesota would meet again three weeks later in the Best-of-5 MISL semi-final playoffs. This time around, the Strikers got the best of it, vanquishing the Force in four games. Just two years later, both franchises would be out of business.

The attendance record would fall one year later, when 21,728 fans showed up in Tacoma, Washington for Game 7 of the 1987 MISL Championship Series between the Tacoma Stars and the Dallas Sidekicks.  That 1987 Tacoma crowd remains the largest ever for the sport of indoor soccer, a mark likely to endure given the dire status of the indoor game in recent years.



Cleveland Force Home Page

Minnesota Strikers Home Page


March 17, 1984 – Cleveland Force vs. Pittsburgh Spirit

leave a comment

Dave MacKenzie Pittsburgh SpiritCleveland Force vs. Pittsburgh Spirit
March 17, 1984
Richfield Coliseum
Attendance: 19,048

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs


Cleveland-Pittsburgh isn’t just a great rivalry in the NFL.  Back in the early 1980’s, the two cities had a fierce rivalry in indoor soccer, of all things.  The Pittsburgh Spirit, owned by Pittsburgh Penguins boss Edward DeBartolo Sr., were relatively popular, claiming similar crowds to the pre-Lemieux Pens.  Meanwhile, after several glum years at the box office, the Cleveland Force became a late-blooming hit, packing huge crowds into the Richfield Coliseum by 1983.

The Spirit-Force rivalry burned hottest during the 1983-84 season. Both clubs were virtually unbeatable at home and the two teams stayed neck-and-neck in the Eastern Division of the Major Indoor Soccer League (MISL) throughout the winter.  Together with a third Eastern Division foe, the Baltimore Blast, the trio were easily the three best clubs in the MISL.

The standing room-only crowd of 19,048 was a regular season record for the Cleveland Force and the 5th largest crowd in history for the MISL at the time.  The home town fans would go home disappointed.  Ian Sybis netted a hat trick for Pittsburgh and Polish defender Adam Topolski added a goal and three assists en route to a 6-4 win for the visitors.

The Force would take their revenge in the postseason.  The clubs finished with near identical records.  Pittsburgh in 2nd place at 32-16 (19-5 at home) and Cleveland right behind at 31-17 (18-6 at home).  But in the quarterfinal playoffs, the Force easily dispatched the Spirit 3 games to 1 in a best-of-five series.

The Cleveland-Pittsburgh soccer rivalry dissolved when the Pittsburgh Spirit went out of business in April 1986.  The Cleveland Force followed two years, shutting down in July 1988.



Cleveland Force Home Page

Pittsburgh Spirit Home Page




Written by AC

February 15th, 2015 at 2:27 pm

1992-1994 Cleveland Thunderbolts

one comment

Cleveland ThunderboltsArena Football League (1992-1994)

Born: 1992 – The Columbus Thunderbolts relocate to Cleveland, OH
Folded: Postseason 1994

Arena: Richfield Coliseum (17,606)

Team Colors: Black, Silver & Purple


  • 1992-1993: John Kuczek
  • 1994: Robert H. Crane, Kuczek family trust

Arena Bowl Championships: None


The Cleveland Thunderbolts were a bottom-dwelling Arena Football League franchise that played for three seasons at the suburban Richfield Coliseum from 1992 to 1994.  The Thunderbolts originated an expansion team in Columbus, Ohio in 1991.  After a winless (0-10) campaign playing in small agriculture fairgrounds arena in Columbus, the team was sold to Ohio insurance salesman John Kuczek in late 1991 and he moved the T-Bolts to Cleveland.

Cleveland ThunderboltsThe T-Bolts were one of the weakest entries in the Arena League in the mid-1990’s, posting an 8-26 record during their three seasons in Cleveland, including back-to-back 2-10 campaigns in 1993 and 1993.  During their brief run, the team signed two big names from the world of college football.  Quarterback Major Harris, a holdover from the 1991 Columbus team, played for the T-Bolts in 1992 and 1994.  Harris was a two-time Heisman Trophy finalist (1988 & 1989) at West Virginia.   He never played in the NFL and his Arena Football career was not ultimately that distinguished.  He was one of the league’s premier rushers as a scrambling QB, but the ground attack was not a major factor in the indoor game.

The other big name, at least locally, was head coach Earle Bruce, formerly of Ohio State University.  Bruce was hired to turn around the team in 1994, but ultimately produced an identical 2-10 last place finished as his predecessor Dave Whinham did in 1993.  Bruce resigned shortly after the 1994 season.

The Thunderbolts were run as a family business. Team owner John Kuczek was an insurance broker from Boardman, Ohio.  His son Jeff was the team’s General Manager.  Early in the T-Bolts short existence in Cleveland, John Kuczek was implicated in a federal securities fraud case in Florida.  Prior to the team’s second season in 1993, the elder Kuczek divested himself of ownership in the club and placed it in a trust for his grandchildren.  Son Jeff continued as the front office leader of the organization.  Kuczek was ultimately convicted on one count of the indictment.  The day before he was due to begin serving his sentence in February 1995, he committed suicide in a Salem, Ohio hotel room.

The Cleveland Thunderbolts did not return for the 1995 season.  Arena Football returned to Cleveland in 2008 with the arrival of the Cleveland Gladiators, a transplanted franchise from Las Vegas.  The Gladiators continue to play today under the ownership of Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.


Cleveland Thunderbolts Memorabilia


Cleveland Thunderbolts Video

One of the final Thunderbolts games – on the road against the Milwaukee Mustangs on July 22, 1994.




1992 Cleveland Thunderbolts Season Ticket Brochure

1993 Cleveland Thunderbolts Season Ticket Brochure




Arena Football League Media Guides

Arena Football League Programs


Written by AC

May 4th, 2014 at 12:01 am

July 28, 1989 – Detroit Drive vs. Pittsburgh Gladiators

leave a comment

Arena Football League 1989 SeasonDetroit Drive vs. Pittsburgh Gladiators
July 28, 1989
Richfield Coliseum
Attendance: 3,412

Arena Football League Programs
16 pages


The Arena Football League hobbled into its third season in July of 1989 having barely survived an offseason civil war that pitted founder Jim Foster against a group of limited partners who bought into the league’s first round of expansion in 1988.

Foster emerged with control of his baby, but without most of his local market investors, save for Little Caesar’s Pizza founder (and future Detroit Tigers owner) Mike Ilitch in Detroit.  With its franchises rudderless and in disarray, the 1989 Arena Football League season was a stopgap effort, featuring just five league-managed teams and a total of 13 games.

Although teams represented Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Maryland and Pittsburgh in name, Arena Football made only one appearance in each of those cities in 1989.  The remaining five regular games were played in neutral cities to showcase the sport to potential expansion investors.

This particular game between the Detroit Drive and the Pittsburgh Gladiators was staged at Cleveland’s Richfield Coliseum.  The game was a strong example of Arena Football’s pass-happy offenses and non-stop scoring (Detroit won 61-34), but as a sales promotion, it was a bust.  The event drew an announced crowd of only 3,412 curiosity seekers to the 17,000-seat Coliseum.  Of the 13 Arena Football exhibitions staged around the country in the summer of 1989, only a neutral site game in Baltimore drew a smaller crowd.

Despite the fact that none of the five 1989 test markets signed on for expansion franchises in 1990, the league did manage to add new investors and grow to six franchises in 1990.  That was the start of a fifteen-year surge in Arena Football growth which saw expansion fees grow from $125,000 in 1990 to $18 million in 2005.  The expansion bubble burst soon afterwards and the league folded and sought bankruptcy protection in 2009.



July 28, 1989 Detroit Drive vs. Pittsburgh Gladiators Roster Sheets




Detroit Drive Home Page



Written by AC

December 16th, 2013 at 2:08 am

January 6, 1984 – Cleveland Force vs. St. Louis Steamers

leave a comment

Cleveland Force vs. St. Louis Steamers
January 6, 1984
Richfield Coliseum
Attendance: 14,173

Major Indoor Soccer League Programs
124 pages


Cleveland vs. St. Louis.  Two of the great hotbeds of indoor soccer in the early 1980’s squared off in this January 1984 match at Cleveland’s Richfield Coliseum.  The Cleveland Force and the St. Louis Steamers ought to have been a great rivalry.  Both teams were Midwestern clubs, both were wildly popular in their moment, and both clubs were among the league’s best at the time.  But Cleveland was in the Major Indoor Soccer League’s Eastern Division and St. Louis was in the Western group and as a result they rarely met in the regular season (and never faced each other in the playoffs).  This Friday night match was the Steamers’ only visit to Cleveland during the 48-game 1983-84 season.

The Force came into this match as the MISL’s hottest team.  They were 13-2, thanks to an early season 11-game winning streak.  Clevelanders leapt onto the band wagon.  This was the sixth season of Force soccer and all of the sudden crowds more than doubled over their previous highs.  A huge crowd of 14,173 turned out for this match and for the season the Force claimed an average of 13,692 for their 24 home dates.  By contrast, the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers pulled only 5,075 per game in the same building that winter.

The Steamers were off to a slower start at 8-8, but their headline-making October signing of U.S. National Team midfielder Ricky Davis was starting to pay dividends.  Davis was arguably the best American soccer player of the early 1980’s.  At a minimum he carried that perception thanks to the Warner Communications marketing machine behind his former club, the New York Cosmos of the outdoor North American Soccer League.  The October 1983 defection of Ricky Davis from the Cosmos to the MISL was as sure a sign as any of the shifting fortunes of pro soccer in the U.S. in the early 1980’s, as the outdoor game foundered and indoor soccer enjoyed its moment.   Warner was cutting way back on the Cosmos in the fall of 1983 (they would unload the club altogether the following summer).  Davis reached the end of his contract on September 30th and balked at the Cosmos’ request for a pay cut.  That opened the door for the Steamers, a club whose commitment to fielding a championship-caliber team with American players was central to its brand.  They signed Davis to a three-year deal worth a reported $117,000 per year, which made the 24-year old one of the highest paid players in the MISL.

Davis came into the Force match hot with 10 goals in his previous five games.  He added a hat trick on this night to lead the Steamers to a 5-2 victory.  The result bumped the Steamers over .500 (9-8) and dropped Cleveland to 13-3.  St. Louis would go on to win the Western Division and appear in the MISL Championship Series, losing to the Baltimore Blast.  The Force never quite regained their invincible form of the season’s first two months.  They finished with a respectable 31-17 record, but were swept by the Blast in the semis, 3 games to none.



Cleveland Force Home Page

St. Louis Steamers Home Page



Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: