BILLINGS -- Say hello to the ...
Well, no, owners still don't have a team name, but indoor football is returning to Billings. That announcement was made official Friday afternoon at a social on the 20th floor of the DoubleTree Hotel.
Not many additional details were announced since MTN Sports broke the story a couple weeks ago. For now, the organization is simply Billings Pro Football. Owners have started a naming contest at billingsindoorfootball.com.
"This team is hopefully going to live and die by the support of the community," said team consultant Tommy Benizio. "It's their team, we're just here to help facilitate it. Why don't we let the community pick the name of this team?"
Keith Russ is the majority owner who's also in his first year of fielding an expansion team in Gillette, Wyo. His business partner is Tel Koan. Together, they make up Pick-Six Entertainment and have a three-year deal with First Interstate Arena to play six regular-season games, plus playoffs, starting next March. The entire regular-season schedule will consist of 12 games.
Owners are also waiting to announce a head coach and have a plan in place for players.
"We like to bring in some local guys if we've got local guys with the talent," Russ said. "But currently in Gillette, I think 70% of our roster is former NFL players. That's what we recruited. It's similar to college football. That's where I learned how to recruit, was coaching in college football."
Billings will be part of a league known as Champions Indoor Football which currently fields eight squads -- nine including Billings. Owners say it's a spin-off of the Indoor Football League but more financially manageable with approximately half the budget.
Billings, and likely Rapid City, S.D., and Denver are expected to field expansion squads next season with the possibility of one more that could run the league total to 12 teams.
"You're going to see lots of touchdowns, lots of big hits," Benizio said. "There's no shoestring tackles in this league, boys."
Of course, fans in Billings are familiar with indoor football. The last time Billings fielded a team was five years ago with the Wolves during 2015 and 2016. Chris Dixon was the team's head coach.
Prior to that, Dixon was an all-league quarterback for the Billings Outlaws who had an 11-year run with three league championships. The Outlaws ceased operations after the 2010 season following a tornado that ripped the roof off of then Rimrock Auto Arena.
According to information passed out at Friday's social, ownership expects to announce the team logo and a head coach in June.