Cold Lake Fighter Jets getting ready for May kickoff

Senior men’s football is coming to Cold Lake.

The Cold Lake Fighter Jets were granted access into the AFL (Alberta Football League) and are preparing for kickoff in less than two months time on the brand new football field beside the Energy Centre.

The league runs over the summertime and the home opener is scheduled for May 25.

History with Lloydminster Vandals

The AFL gives opportunities for recently graduated high-school players or those still with the itch to play the chance to suit up.

In the past, there has a handful of players signed from AFL teams by CFL teams.

Cold Laker and club president, Damen Schaub, had been with the Vandals since 2010 and decided to try and start a franchise after the city’s football field project began.

“I had been with the Vandals since 2010 commuting back and forth to Cold Lake for eight seasons now. I was just a guy that only a high school experience and at that time in 2010, a lot of guys that just had high school experience shone in the league,” said Schaub.

The Fighter Jets launched a Facebook page, which is helping the recruitment cause, Schaub said. The list of interested local and lakeland players is in the 40s at the moment.

“It’s generated a lot more players since we went live to about six new faces on the roster coming this weekend for our last indoor workout before we head outside,” said Schaub.

Schaub said he isn’t too concerned about sponsorship dollars, which he estimated during the council meeting the team needed roughly $60,000 to operate, and says it will be an opportunity for businesses in Cold Lake and the surrounding area.

“We’re doing pretty good so far on the sponsorship campaign. It’s just another opportunity for small businesses to get some advertisement and support a local franchise.”

Fighter Jets request $10,000 partnership with the City

The football team presented to city council last week asking for a partnership opportunity with the city for $10,000. The agreement would put the city’s logo on their jerseys.

“If they say yes, we put their crest on our left chest and wear it with pride. We got this community support behind this already. It’s definitely more motivating for the group and we got that,” said Schaub.

“But if we don’t get it, it just means that we have a set our fundraising and sponsorship targets higher and get our boots on the ground.”

The decision will come back to the council as early as next week.

“We’re here to provide facilities to everybody and we’re excited that somebody wants to come and use the field. We do know we’re getting a lot of eyeballs at the Energy Centre and what we’ve built over the last few years,” said Mayor Craig Copeland.

“The city won’t get involved in the actual running of these organizations. We’ll do a user agreement similar with what we do with the Junior A and Junior B, but these groups have to stand on their own and do their business model. We wish them well like we wish the Junior A and Junior B well,” said Copeland.

A key issue upcoming for the team will be when the city takes control of the field. Right now, the city does not have the keys to the field because the contractor might have to do some final landscaping work once the spring melt is finished.

Board setbacks

The Fighter Jets had to essentially restart their planning a little under a month ago Schaub said during the presentation to city council.

The disintegration of the old board leads to the current pressure and tight deadlines to get everything going for the 2019 season.

“There was just a lot of things that were out of my control that led to harsh decisions needing to be made and people to be moved around. It left us in a situation where we didn’t have a future unless we made some serious moves,” said Schaub.

“We’re a little behind the eight-ball, but things are progressing nicely.”

The new board includes Cold Lake Wings marketing and media relations person Andrew Heliotis and Cold Lake High School head coach Kelly Johnson to get involved.

“Anytime I need to ask him something, he’s never hesitant to give his honest opinion,” said Schaub about Royals coach Johnson.

Coach McKenna hired

The team announced the hiring of their first head coach Thursday.

Jim McKenna will lead the Fighter Jets on the sidelines after three years experience coaching the now-defunct Lloydminster Vandals of the AFL.

“I think it’s important to hit the ground running with a new team and a new city. A community always likes to watch a winner. There are some talented players who are going to be in the lineup and the fans are going to see some great football,” said McKenna on the Fighter Jets Facebook page.

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