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Sources: Arizona close to joining Spokane in Indoor Football League

In this July 12, 2014 file photo, Spokane Shock receiver Mike Washington races past Arizona Rattlers defender Arkeith Brown during an AFL game in the Spokane Arena. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
In this July 12, 2014 file photo, Spokane Shock receiver Mike Washington races past Arizona Rattlers defender Arkeith Brown during an AFL game in the Spokane Arena. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane switched arena leagues last year and it appears two Arena Football League franchises hope to follow in the Empire’s footsteps to the Indoor Football League.

Arizona, which won three straight ArenaBowls from 2012-14 and lost in last year’s AFL title game, is seeking membership in the IFL, sources said. Jacksonville announced recently it is leaving the AFL for a rival league, believed to be the IFL.

Arizona is close to finalizing the move to the IFL, sources said. Jacksonville’s status isn’t as clear because its location doesn’t fit in the IFL’s geographic footprint in the West and Midwest.

Spokane and Arizona were AFL rivals. Spokane had the upperhand early, winning the 2010 AFL title. The Rattlers emerged as the AFL’s most successful franchise over the last five years.

Richard Obert, Rattlers beat writer for the Arizona Republic, tweeted that AFL owners were holding a conference call Thursday and a statement could be released following the meeting.

Spokane left the AFL following the 2015 season because ownership felt the league didn’t have a sustainable long-term business model. The Empire’s first season in the IFL ended with a loss to Sioux Falls in the championship game.

The IFL had 10 teams in 2016 and anticipates the same number for 2017. Salt Lake is joining as an expansion franchise. The addition of Arizona would offset the loss of Tri-Cities, which announced in June it is going dormant for at least one season. Billings isn’t expected to return, sources said.

AFL membership continues to shrink. Orlando and Jacksonville are out and more departures could be coming. Arizona appears ready to leave for the IFL. Portland operated under league control last year.

San Jose folded after winning the 2015 ArenaBowl. Iowa left the AFL for the IFL in 2014.

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