Played in Moda Center
in Portland, Oregon
| Arena Football League (2014–2016) |
|Team colors||Navy blue, royal blue, silver|
|Owner(s)||Arena Football League|
|Head coach||Ron James|
|League championships (0)|
|Conference championships (0)|
|Division championships (0)|
|Playoff appearances (3)|
The Portland Steel were a professional arena football team based in Portland, Oregon and members of the Arena Football League (AFL). The team started as the Portland Thunder, joining the AFL in 2014 as an expansion team along with the Los Angeles Kiss. The team played their home games at the Moda Center. They were known as the Thunder until the franchise went under league ownership in 2016 and became the Steel.
On October 2, 2013, a press conference was held at the Moda Center where it was announced that sports investor Terry Emmert had purchased the membership rights to an AFL franchise.Emmert purchased the Milwaukee Mustangs, which had been a defunct franchise since the 2012 season. This essentially gave Emmert the right to an expansion franchise, since none of the team's Milwaukee roots, such as players, front office staff or coaches, remained. When asked what the biggest challenge to running a new franchise was, team president Jared Rose said, "Getting new fans to buy into something that the market really hasn’t seen before. Any new product launch is difficult, but we’ve got an exciting product that once people see it, they are hooked."
On November 8, 2013, the franchise announced that the nicknames, "Thunder", "Enforcers", "Sasquatch", "Growlers" and "Stomp" were the finalist for the team.Six days later, Emmert revealed the team's nickname would be the "Thunder." The Thunder nickname has history in Portland dating back to the 1975 Portland Thunder, who played at Civic Stadium as members of the World Football League (WFL). John Canzano, sports columnist for The Oregonian , wrote that a "team source" indicated that team owner Terry Emmert selected the team's nickname himself, despite claiming that fans would have the ultimate say. According to Canzano's source the "Growlers" nickname was the most popular among voters followed by the "Sasquatch".
The Portland Thunder began their training camp and held a media day on February 25, 2014. On March 1, the team held an intra-squad scrimmage for season ticket holders at Tualatin Indoor Soccer in Tualatin, Oregon. Their first game occurred on March 17 against the San Jose SaberCats at the Moda Center.
On February 12, 2014 it was announced that the Thunder had signed former Portland State Vikings wide receiver Justin Monahan, who is a native of West Linn, Oregon.The Thunder have former Oregon Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas on their inaugural roster. When asked about being assigned to Portland, Thomas said, "That was one of the main reasons I came back and accepted this opportunity to come here, just for the fans and I know people are behind me [...] I'm coming in to compete and be the starter and that's what I came out here for."
The Thunder played their first game on St. Patrick's Day, March 17, as 8,509 people came to the Moda Center to see the team lose 64–34 to the San Jose SaberCats. The team started 0–5 before beating the Jacksonville Sharks 69–62 on the road in week 7. After starting 0–4 at home, the Thunder won their first game in Portland in week 11, beating the San Antonio Talons 55–40. Despite finishing 5–13, including an 0–6 divisional record and an even more ghastly 2–11 conference record, the National Conference was so weak, the Thunder slipped into the playoffs. In the conference semifinals, the Thunder actually led 48–45 with less than a minute left, before a miracle finish caused them to lose to the 2-time reigning champion Arizona Rattlers, 52–48. On September 23, 2014, the Thunder fired head Coach Matthew Sauk.Days later, the team announced the hiring of former Iowa Barnstormers head coach Mike Hohensee.
The team finished with the same results in 2015, finishing 5–13. Originally the team finished behind Las Vegas in the playoff race. However, as the AFL folded Las Vegas after the season, they had amazingly slipped into the playoffs again. They lost to the San Jose SaberCats. On August 24, 2015, head coach Mike Hohensee and his coaching staff mutually agreed to part ways.
On September 11, 2015, the Thunder agreed to terms to hire former Spokane Shock head coach Andy Olson as its third head coach in three years.
On January 6, 2016, the AFL announced that they took over operations of the Portland Thunder from owner Terry Emmert.Emmert told the Portland Tribune newspaper that the future of the team was up in the air because he was concerned with the league's medical insurance policies and was hoping to try and attract more investors to help fund the team. This prompted league officials and the board of directors to take control of the franchise and look for new owners. The league also decided to fire Andy Olson and his entire coaching staff before Olson could even coach a down for the Thunder and replaced them on January 30, 2016, with former Las Vegas Gladiators, Utah Blaze and Pittsburgh Power head coach Ron James. James was also named the team's general manager.
In 2014, Emmert had trademarked the Thunder name, logo, color scheme and identity (similar to what Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones did with the identity of the now-defunct Dallas Desperados in the early 2000s). As of February 3, 2016, Emmert still legally owns the trademarks of the team, despite reports to the contrary, and has no intentions of selling them to the league.Because Emmert owns the rights to the name, there is a possibility of a return of the Thunder name to the AFL or a new team named Thunder joining the Indoor Football League, but only if the Portland AFL franchise fails in 2016.
On February 24, 2016, the franchise was given a new name, re-branded the Portland Steel by the AFL. The name is derived from the region's steel industry and rich history. According to the AFL's website, the steel industry has been a backbone of the Portland working culture for over 150 years. Steel is an overtly visible part of the Portland landscape, with foundries decorating both the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, and is seen in several of the city's 12 iconic bridges.
The AFL officially folded the Steel franchise in October 2016 and placed its players into a dispersal draft conducted on October 14, 2016.
On September 7, 2017, Portland television station KGW did an investigation about the AFL's operations following the takeover of the franchise from Emmert and reported that the league's owners Arena Football One, LLC, quietly shut down the operations following the 2016 season and left town leaving a trail of unpaid bills and failing to pay former employees and vendors money owed to them.
After taking over the franchise and re-branding it as the Steel, AFL commissioner Scott Butera said in a press release, "We highly value the Thunder fans and this step was needed to stabilize the team in the Portland market."
Employees, staff, vendors and even broadcasters were owned combined thousands of dollars in unpaid bills prompting several lawsuits against Arena Football One, LLC. As of September 2017, only one lawsuit was settled out of court. Phone calls and emails to the league office in Las Vegas went unanswered. The investigation even uncovered a sports jersey company in Las Vegas being owed $13,000 for manufacturing home black jerseys for the Las Vegas Outlaws in 2016. That company had still not been paid and there has been no indication of payment.
Additionally, the same former employees and vendors received a letter from a law office in Vermont representing Arena Football One, LLC. The letter said the league was restructuring finances, but offered 10 to 15 percent of the money owed, if the former employees agreed not to sue. The parties refused the offer and still planned on suing the AFL ownership group following the report.
|Portland Steel roster|
Other league exempt
Refused to report
The following Thunder/Steel players were named to All-Arena Teams:
|Portland Steel staff|
|Front Office||Head Coach|
On October 8, 2013, Matthew Sauk was named the Thunder's inaugural head coach.Sauk had previously worked for the Utah Blaze, where he served as an assistant coach and offensive coordinator. Following the team's inaugural season, in which Sauk led Portland to a 5–13 record, Sauk was dismissed as head coach and replaced by Mike Hohensee. On August 24, 2015, Hohensee suffered the same exact fate as he and his staff mutually agreed to part ways after he coached the team to an identical 5-13 record and a second trip to the playoffs. On September 11, 2015, Andy Olson was named the team's third head coach in franchise history. On January 30, 2016, Ron James replaced Olson as head coach.
|Andy Olson||Did not coach||0||0||0||–||0||0|
On March 11, 2014, the Thunder established a local television deal with NBC Sports Northwest. Scott Lynn provided play-by-play, Jordan Kent was a color analyst, and Megan Berrey served as sideline reporter. Periodically, Portland Trail Blazers TV broadcaster Mike Barrett filled in on play-by-play.They also announced a radio deal with KXTG Sports Radio 750 AM with Jeremy Scott on the play-by-play and Brian Perkins as color analyst.
Moda Center, formerly known as the Rose Garden, is the primary indoor sports arena in Portland, Oregon, United States. It is used for basketball, ice hockey, rodeos, circuses, conventions, ice shows, concerts, and dramatic productions. The arena has a capacity of 19,393 spectators when configured for basketball. It is equipped with state-of-the-art acoustics and other amenities.
The Portland Thunder was an American football team in the World Football League based out of Portland, Oregon. When the World Football League was created in October 1973, the Storm was the original New York franchise. When the Boston Bulls merged with New York to become the New York Stars, the original New York entry's draft picks were eventually relegated to Portland. They were the first major league football team based in Portland. They played at Civic Stadium, now known as Providence Park.
Michael Louis Hohensee is a former professional football quarterback who played in the United States Football League, Canadian Football League, National Football League and Arena Football League. He most recently the head coach of the AFL's Portland Thunder. He played college football at the University of Minnesota, and was in the AFL for two seasons, from 1987 to 1988. Hohensee has been a head coach since 1990, beginning at the Washington Commandos. He has served as head coach of eight different arena football franchises, winning ArenaBowl XX with the Chicago Rush in 2006.
Portland, Oregon, United States, is home to three major league sports teams — the Portland Trail Blazers of the National Basketball Association, the Portland Timbers of Major League Soccer, and the Portland Thorns FC of the National Women's Soccer League. The city also hosts a wide variety of other sports and sporting events.
NBC Sports Northwest is an American regional sports network owned by the NBC Sports Group unit of NBCUniversal, and operates as an affiliate of NBC Sports Regional Networks. The network broadcasts regional coverage of professional sports events throughout the Pacific Northwest, focusing primarily on the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers and college sports events involving the Oregon Ducks; the network also covers other sports events involving teams within the northwestern United States, including those featuring college and high school teams.
The Milwaukee Mustangs were a professional arena football team based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. They were members of the Arena Football League (AFL), which they joined in 2010 during the league's restructuring. They played their home games at the Bradley Center in downtown Milwaukee.
Kyle Rowley is an arena football quarterback who is currently a free agent. He also played in the former af2. He played college football at Brown.
Darron Varnell Thomas is a professional American football quarterback who is a free agent. He was the starting quarterback for the University of Oregon football team that reached the 2011 BCS National Championship Game and won the 2012 Rose Bowl.
Lee Johnson is an arena football coach and former offensive lineman and defensive lineman. He played his college football at the University of Missouri, and was an AFL offensive lineman and defensive lineman from 1995 to 1996. He has been a football coach since 1997. After being the defensive coordinator for the Orlando Predators from 2010 to 2011, he became the San Antonio Talons head coach in 2011.
Andrew Olson is an arena football coach and former wide receiver. He was previously the head coach for the Spokane Shock and Portland Thunder of the Arena Football League (AFL). He played his college football at the Western Washington University, and was an af2 wide receiver from 2008 to 2009. He has been a football coach since 2011. After being the offensive coordinator for the Spokane Shock in 2011, he became the Shock head coach in 2012.
Matthew Sauk is an arena football coach and former quarterback. He played college football at Utah State, was an af2 quarterback from 2001 to 2005, and an AFL quarterback from 2002 to 2008. He has been a football coach since 2008. After being the offensive coordinator for the Utah Blaze from 2011 to 2013, he became the Portland Thunder head coach in 2014. He was the head coach of the Salt Lake Screaming Eagles of the Indoor Football League (IFL) in 2017 and the Columbus Destroyers of the Arena Football League in 2019.
The 2014 Arena Football League season was the 27th season in the history of the league. The regular season began on March 14, 2014 and ended on July 26, 2014.
Justin Monahan is a professional American football wide receiver who is currently a free agent. He attended Portland State University and played for the school's NCAA Division I football team. Statistically, 2011 was Monahan's best season at Portland State, catching 52 passes for 707 yards and six touchdowns. He was an All-Big Sky Conference Honorable Mention that season. Over his three-year career with the Vikings, Monahan had 112 receptions for 1,579 yards and six touchdowns.
Bryce Peila is a professional American football linebacker who is currently a free agent. After graduating in 2008 from Crater High School in Central Point, Oregon he attended Western Oregon University and played for the school's football team for four years (2009–12). Peila is second all-time in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference in career interceptions with 20. He also holds the record for return yards with 437. After his college career was over, Peila kept in football condition while working outside the sport. In 2014, he worked out for Portland Thunder head coach Matthew Sauk and was subsequently signed to one-year contract to play for the team during their inaugural season. According to the AFL, he stands at 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) and weighs 205 pounds (93 kg). On March 10, 2017, Peila was assigned to the Washington Valor. On April 5, 2017, Peila was placed on recallable reassignment. On May 2, 2017, Peila was assigned to the Philadelphia Soul. On August 26, 2017, the Soul beat the Tampa Bay Storm in ArenaBowl XXX by a score of 44–40.
Ron James is an American football coach who was most recently the head coach of the Atlantic City Blackjacks of the Arena Football League (AFL). He played college football at Siena College. He has been a football coach since 1986. Before becoming the Blackjacks' head coach for their inaugural 2019 season, James coached for the Las Vegas Gladiators from 2005 to 2006, the Utah Blaze from 2010 to 2013, the Pittsburgh Power in 2014, the Portland Steel in 2016, and the Tampa Bay Storm in 2017.
Brandon Lee Tett is a professional American football defensive linemen who is currently a free agent. He has also been a member of the Portland Thunder of the Arena Football League. He attended the University of Oregon and played for the school's football team. According to the AFL, Tett stands at 6 feet 1 inch (1.85 m) and weighs 260 pounds (120 kg).
The 2015 Portland Thunder season was the second season for the arena football franchise in the Arena Football League. The team was coached by Mike Hohensee and played their home games at the Moda Center. The Thunder finished third in the Pacific division and 5–13 for the second straight year, and were also one of two teams to go winless on the road. Despite not qualifying for the playoffs with their win-loss record, because the league elected to cease operations of the Las Vegas Outlaws, who had finished ahead of Portland for the final playoff berth in the National Conference, Portland was awarded a playoff berth in their place. They were defeated in the conference semifinals by the San Jose SaberCats, 55–28.
Terry W. Emmert is an American businessman, entrepreneur and sports franchise owner from Clackamas, Oregon, a suburb of Portland. He is the founder and owner of Emmert International, an engineering and transport service company, the International Basketball League's Portland Chinooks and the Portland Thunder professional Arena Football League team. He has two children, Terry Michael Emmert, who is vice president of Emmert International, and Christine Vessey, the Vice President of Multrec Corporation.
The Milwaukee Iron were announced as an af2 expansion team in March 2008 when the team's ownership group announced a three-year lease agreement to play at the Bradley Center beginning with the 2009 season. The announcement came the day before the Milwaukee Bonecrushers kicked off play in the Continental Indoor Football League at Milwaukee's US Cellular Arena.