When the Indianapolis Arena Enforcers, a minor league football team, play their first game in the Indiana Farmers Coliseum later this month, it will be the first time football has been played in the historic building.
Playing in the coliseum is a chance for the Enforcers to gain name recognition and fans, but for founder and coach K.C. Carter, it has personal significance.
“I appreciate the coliseum,” Carter, 54, said. “Because they took a chance on us. … It’s a dream come true.”
The first time Carter, a die-hard Indiana Pacers fan, saw the basketball team play was with his uncle at the coliseum, the team’s original home. Not long before, he watched his father murder his mother before taking his own life. At 7 years old, sports — along with monster movies and rock ‘n’ roll — became Carter’s escape.
“It was rough growing up,” Carter said. “I just took it in stride, I dealt with it. Football was my release. And, as funny as it may seem, monster movies and KISS, they were my superheroes. I always wanted to be Gene Simmons,” he added with a laugh. “Sports have always been a great outlet for me. It’s why I do everything I do.”
This is why Carter founded the Enforcers — named in homage to his experience as a sergeant in the Marion County Sheriff’s Department — in 2010. Originally a part of the American Football League (AFL), the team played home games at The Gathering Place, and were selling out the venue early on in its first season. Ticket sales dropped after the team relocated to Carmel, resulting in a brief hiatus.
Now, with the AFL folded, the Enforcers are starting their first season in the American Arena League (AAL). Arena football differs from traditional football in several ways, including a shorter field and no punting. Through the team, Carter hopes to give his players, who range in age from 19-35, the chance to play football at a competitive level.
The team is currently in the first year of what Carter calls his five-year plan. In the future, he hopes to be able to create housing options for out-of-state players, study and mentorship areas for student players, and a community center for local youth to learn about art and theater.
“I want to use football as a way to give back to the community,” he said.
But all of this is dependent on a successful first year in the coliseum.
“I gotta get the team off the ground first and generate money,” Carter said. “So, once we can get past the first season in the arena, I think we will be able to be a mainstay in the city, because the team can sell itself. But, we need about 2,500 fans in the stadium that first game to survive the first season.”
The Enforcers are already creating relationships with local groups and other sports teams, including the Indianapolis Fuel, which promoted the new football team at recent games.
Carter and his players hope to provide Hoosiers with an affordable, fun family event.
Julian Walker, 29, has been a wide receiver for the Enforcers for two years.
“It’s been a really good experience,” Walker said. “We’re trying to build something here in Indianapolis, and it means a lot to me to be able to bring this to my community and friends and family.”
Carter’s primary goal for the first year in the league is to regain the momentum the team had a few years ago.
“We just want to let people know we’re here,” Carter said. “The next step will be trying to find sponsors and keep this thing rolling. I’m grateful to the coliseum for giving us a place to play.”
The two-time Minor League Football Hall of Famer — as a player and as a coach is hopeful this first year for the Enforcers in a new home goes smoothly, pulling from his years of experience.
“I love the guys that I’m coaching,” he said. “And after so many years of coaching and playing, you learn how to handle situations and keep everything moving and hold yourself and everyone accountable. … We’ll make history after that first game in the coliseum, and we’ll keep moving from there.”
Contact staff writer Breanna Cooper at 317-762-7848. Follow her on Twitter @BreannaNCooper.