In March of 2020, Duke City Gladiators owner Gina Prieskorn-Thomas saw her team load a bus and head to Frisco, Texas, on what would have been the team’s first Indoor Football League match up. But little did she know at that time that the players and staff wouldn’t even step into the arena. 

The game’s cancellation was just the beginning of what would come for the Gladiators. The team soon boarded the bus and headed back to Albuquerque–a far cry from the yard lines at Comerica Center, the home of the Frisco Fighters.

Since March league officials, team owners and staff worked diligently to prepare for the upcoming season while players worked out and remained in top shape. Last week team owners and league officials met in Scottsdale, Arizona, to discuss the upcoming season. The league is home to 12 teams which will be in the 2021 schedule.

IFL Commissioner Todd Tryon said the league owners meeting was successful and offered a sense of hope for the upcoming season. “We had a few teams go dormant this year, but the league did not lose any teams,” Tryon said. “We had to deal with a nightmare environment, but we are still all together–that says a lot of our owners.”

“We learned a lot and had a great time with our IFL colleagues at the meeting,” Prieskorn-Thomas said. “The meeting gave us all hope for the upcoming season. We will navigate the restrictions and upcoming season as one large team. We are in this together.”

Several teams are dealing with the potential of having no fans at home games. The Gladiators are dealing with not being able to play any home games at the present time. “Currently we are still planning on holding a season for this year,” Prieskorn-Thomas said. “We have developed a COVID-safe plan to ensure our players, staff, coaches and fans’ health is our top priority. We are also working with league and state officials to see if we can play at our home [Bay Equity Field at Tingley Coliseum] for the upcoming season.”

“Some of the biggest restrictions are in New Mexico,” Tryon said. “Other teams also have restrictions in place.” He added that some teams are prepared to play without fans and others are being told that attendance will be restricted.

Prieskorn-Thomas said that, with New Mexico schools being able to start sports and college teams now, being able to practice in-state is a welcoming sign. Team officials are currently preparing for camp and the first game. “It is great that teams are getting back to fields and courts across the state,” Prieskorn-Thomas said. “We look forward to supporting them while preparing for our upcoming season. We are eager to get on the field and represent our beautiful state and its people in the IFL when it is safe for everyone to do so.”

Tune in to “In the Endzone with the Gladiators” at 5:30pm every Sunday on Fox New Mexico (KRQE-DT2) for the latest updates.

This story is a staff report from The Paper.