New arena football team looks to take ‘flight’ in New Jersey
TRENTON — It is only a short trip from Trenton Mercer Airport to the Sun National Bank Center, but the owners of the new arena football team — the Jersey Flight — hope to see their expansion team take off and bring the surrounding community with them.
The team is owned by retired New Jersey State Trooper Samuel Davis Jr. and Kyna Felder-Ruiz. While neither has any experience in sports ownership, both said they are optimistic they will succeed where other sports teams at the arena have failed.
Felder-Ruiz said the Flight will bring "fun, exciting, family entertainment" when they kick off in the National Arena League next year.
"We're not just coming in asking people to buy tickets," she said. "We want to give back. We want to help bring jobs. We want to help keep youth off the street, give them something to do, somewhere to go."
As part of their work to give back, the team has already set up a nonprofit called the Jersey Flight Community. "Flight is hoping to come in, give back, and represent Jersey and a better life," Felder-Ruiz said.
While the Flight will be the fourth arena football league to call the former Sovereign Bank Arena home, Davis said he believes this time can be different.
"We got to ask the Sun Arena about what the other teams did," he said. "We are nowhere near in thinking what they were doing."
It will be the community first approach that he said will make the difference.
And while the Trenton Thunder have thrived in the state's capital for more than two decades, Davis said he knows the lifespan of teams in the arena down the street has not been as enduring.
"There's a lot of people who are skeptical and are doubtful that we are capable of making this happen," he said. "We think different. We feel different and we are going to show people that we are here to stay."
The last time Davis strapped on a helmet and pads was in high school but he said he was deeply involved as an agent in the Arena Football League, which he said will also help the team take flight next year.
"I was in the AFL when they were thriving and the salaries were high, which eventually bankrupt the league," he said.
Having helped form the player's association in the more established arena league, Davis said he looks forward to helping the new league which is in its first season.
"I'm on the ground level with it. I have more input," he said. "The new NAL has some experienced guys from the AFL as part of its brain trust. What I add is the player's part."
Admitting he helped encourage his arena players to seek the big dollar contracts, Davis said this time around there is a more measured approach.
"I can say that I was probably instrumental in saying let's go for the money, let's go for the money, let's go for the money. That part wouldn't work with the AFL now," he said. "I know better. I'll know better if it becomes a business decision."
The National Arena League currently has eight teams stretching from Pennsylvania to Florida, and even into Mexico. Davis said he believes the "international flavor" will be an attractive draw for the team and that the Monterrey team could be just the beginning. "Those are kind of the things that will make it very intriguing to play abroad," he said.
An admitted Giants fan, Felder-Ruiz said she hopes the Flight will bring fans of all the NFL teams together under the New Jersey banner and also bring in some new fans.
"Jersey, I think, is a very proud state," she said. "The fact that we have an opportunity to have our own football team, our name on it, I think is going to make us all proud."
There may not be a team on the field this year, but Davis said the team will be very busy getting ready to hit the turf running in 2018.
"We're seeking sponsorship, we're seeking partnership, so that March of 2018 or maybe even February 2018 we kick off and have everything in place."
"I don't want to say there's any fear," Felder-Ruiz added. "There's more excitement. If we're anxious about anything it's just about getting out and shaking hands. We want to meet people, we want to connect, and we want to do basically everything in our mission statement."
Season ticket reservations are now available since the schedule for the team has not yet been released but Davis said ticket prices will range from as low as $5 to as high as $46.
The team is already active on social media, including Facebook and Twitter, as is the Jersey Flight Community, all of which the owners hope will help get fans excited for when the season kicks off next year.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com