A national championship football game was played Saturday night in southern Nevada. The Vince Lombardi Trophy wasn’t on the line, nor was the game played inside Allegiant Stadium.
Instead, it was the Indoor Football League, which crowned its champion at The Dollar Loan Center in Henderson. The Northern Arizona Wranglers claimed the title, defeating the Quad City Steamwheelers 47-45 in front of an announced crowd of 4,149.
Fans in attendance were treated to pregame festivities outside the arena, including a DJ setup, games and food trucks. Halftime featured a game between local flag football teams.
In just a few months since its opening, The Dollar Loan Center has attracted several of the valley’s newest minor league sports franchises — the Henderson Silver Knights, Vegas Knight Hawks and NBA G League Ignite.
It also has played host to the Big West conference men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, as well as the IFL championship game, an event that will return annually through 2024.
“The fact that we’ve been able to keep the facility busy tells us the community was wanting and needing different types of events in the community,” Henderson Mayor Debra March said.
Henderson is looking to have its space in the growing southern Nevada sports scene.
Along with The Dollar Loan Center, Henderson is the site of the Las Vegas Raiders’ headquarters and practice facility, Lifeguard Arena — the practice facility of the Silver Knights — and will be the future home of the Las Vegas Aces’ practice facility.
Vegas Knight Hawks co-owner and Dollar Loan Center CEO Chuck Brennan said the response from the city to the sporting events drawn to the arena has been positive. He said the city was looking to attract sports at a “family friendly price point.”
Brennan believes that with the arena’s size (with a capacity of 5,567) and ability to house different indoor sports, it can attract more top-tier events.
“We really think we can parlay (the arena) to host any indoor sport,” Brennan said. “It’s a good spot for it, at a perfect size that’s not too big.”
The IFL had already inserted itself into southern Nevada with the expansion Vegas Knight Hawks, who finished 6-10 in their inaugural season.
IFL commissioner Todd Tryon said it took some convincing to get the leagues’s owners to agree on a neutral site for the championship game. But the convincing didn’t take long as they looked at it as an opportunity to grow the league by being active around other sports coming to southern Nevada.
“We’re excited to show people this is going to be a destination place for years to come,” Tryon said.
With The Dollar Loan Center attracting a national championship event, indoor football, ice hockey and basketball committing to Henderson, Brennan and the city are optimistic about sports in the community.
“We would have been happy to have all of this in Year Five, but to have these sports in Year One, I think we hit the ground running pretty well,” Brennan said.