Team will live and practice in Morgan Hill, play in San Jose
Published online October 5, 2023
By Robert Airoldi
The champions are staying home.
After an electrifying league title and raucous hometown parade this summer, the Bay Area Panthers indoor football team has announced it will continue playing in San Jose and practicing in Morgan Hill for the 2024 season.
The decision will come as welcome news for the team’s spirited fans in Morgan Hill, who have wholeheartedly embraced the Panthers since the team settled in the South Valley this year. Players and coaches will look to build on their 2023 championship campaign as they prepare for another season in the heart of Panthers Country.
The news popped up this week on a press release on the team’s website
“That’s right – the Bay Area Panthers are staying in San Jose,” read the release. “Our decision to stay was fueled by your unwavering support – from the city of Morgan Hill, led by their spirited Mayor Mark Turner, to the newly elected visionary Mayor Matt Mahan of San Jose, to the generous support of Meriwest Credit Union and our other esteemed sponsors. And of course, our incredible fans who march into the SAP Center arena every game to elevate our Panthers to victory.”
The team took the 2023 Indoor Football League Championship title after an electrifying 51-41 win against the Sioux Falls Storm Aug. 5 in Henderson, Nev. Six days later, fans young and old thronged the downtown area in a display of loud adoration for the team’s players, coaches, and staff who rode in classic cars and souped-up trucks toward the Morgan Hill Community Center’s plaza where they were honored.
A month before they became national champions, owners Roy Choi and Marshawn Lynch announced a joint strategic venture with the PIVOT Agency to lead a request for proposals seeking a new home for the team. Possible sites included Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose, and Stockton.
“It’s no secret that we have an RFP (request for proposal) out there,” Choi said. “But it’s also no secret that I want to stay. Ultimately, we’re just one big sponsor away from staying in Morgan Hill. If we could get a big title sponsor to say, ‘Hey, this is our team and we’re keeping them here,’ that’s what we need. The mayor and city have been very supportive, making introductions and doing their best to keep us here.”
Turner said he worked with San Jose Sharks CEO Jonathan Becher and San Jose Mayor Matt Mahan, and has a good working relationship Choi, who told the Morgan Hilll mayor he was committed to Morgan Hill and San Jose but wanted to explore other options.
“It was a coordinated effort to ensure we can keep the Panthers here,” Turner said. “I think he saw the potential of what we’re able to do.”
From an economic standpoint players living here, buying products, eating out, plus the community pride here as they practice.
“The players were really good about getting involved in the community,” Turner said. “There was a great bond between the players and our community.”
Since the team moved to Morgan Hill in March of this year and began practice at the Outdoor Sports Center, the people of South Valley rallied around the team, welcoming them into the community. The feeling of friendship is mutual from the players. The team has engaged actively with the community and local students, building relationships with businesses and thriving with the support of organizations.
The two communities will be put to the test as Turner and Mahan will hold a friendly competition over what city can sell the most season tickets based on the percentage of the population.
While the city has a priority around getting more children involved in youth sports and recreation, having the Panthers here will help elevate that more, Turner said.
To that end, Turner and Mahan will host the 2023 Bay Area Panthers Mayors Challenge USA Football Kick, Throw and Go. The fun competition is for boys and girls grades 3 through 8 and takes place Nov. 4 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at CEFCU Stadium, 1278 s. 10th St., San Jose. Check in is from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
The competition non-contact drills include passing distance, passing accuracy, kicking distance, punting accuracy, running speed and running agility. All campers will receive a T-shirt and two tickets to the Panthers 2024 home opening game and the top performer in each drill will receive two 2024 Panthers season tickets.
Register at https://form.jotform.com/232715741665157. Details: Chase Lazarus at [email protected] or (408) 892-5907.