#53 Pensacola Barracudas
Georgia real estate develop David Berkman owned the Barracudas, along with minority partners Charles Felix and Bruce Burge. Berkman was a serial hockey investor during the 1990’s who owned, at various times, the Atlanta Knights and Quebec Rafales of the International Hockey League, the Atlanta Fire Ants of Roller Hockey International, and various East Coast Hockey League (ECHL) clubs including the Birmingham Bulls, Jacksonville Lizard Kings and the Pensacola Ice Pilots.
In the spring of 1999 Berkman and his partners made a bid to enter three indoor football franchises into a Southeastern U.S. start-up called the Xtreme Football League. Berkman’s group reserved the Birmingham, Jacksonville and Pensacola markets – all locations where they had experience operating ECHL hockey clubs.
Meanwhile, the major market Arena Football League announced plans to start its own second-tier league which would be known as AF2 and would launch in 2000. In July 1999, AF2 bought out and absorbed the Xtreme Football League into AF2. Berkman and Co. paid a $150,000 fee per franchise to enter the Birmingham Steeldogs, Jacksonville Tomcats and Pensacola Barracudas into AF2.
Former Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets defensive back Kevin Porter served as Pensacola’s Head Coach during the club’s first season in 2000.
Due to the overlapping ownership, the staff of the ECHL Ice Pilots operated the Barracudas during the summer months. During AF2’s first season in 2000, the Barracudas were a hot ticket, claiming an average of 7,294 fans per game at the Pensacola Civic Center. Attendance dropped precipitously in the next two seasons, mirroring the experience of the Ice Pilots, whose attendance fell off nearly 50% between 1998 and 2001. Barracudas attendance bottomed out at 2,768 per game in their third season during the summer of 2002.
The club folded on November 11, 2002.
Wide Receiver/Defensive Back Will Pettis made his pro debut with the Barracudas in 2002. He went on to join the first-tier Arena Football League’s Dallas Desperadoes in 2003, where he became an All-League performer. Pettis won the league’s Ironman-of-the-Year award in both 2007 and 2008, given to the league’s best two-way player. Pettis went to NFL training camps with the New Orleans Saints (2003) and the Atlanta Falcons (2005).
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