January 26, 2013

Rampage hope to pick up a few fans

By Devin Golden

— Today will be the first time area residents are able to watch a Georgia Rampage practice.

The team hopes it results in more season ticket sales for the team’s games.

Dalton’s new professional indoor football franchise will host a “Pick Your Seat” event from noon to 3 p.m. at the trade center.

Fans with season tickets will get the opportunity to show up at any time in the three-hour window and claim their seats for the upcoming 2013 Ultimate Indoor Football League season, which begins March 4 against Florida’s Lake-land Raiders. Additionally, the Rampage will host an exhibition game Feb. 26 against the Georgia Panthers, an outdoor team.

The Rampage moved to Dalton in the offseason after being a travel franchise in 2012. Amer Awad, a co-owner of the team, stressed today’s event also is for potential fans without season tickets, because an open practice will be held with “20 to 30 players” expected to be present.

“We’re going to have some key people there,” Awad said.

Even fans without season tickets — today is the final chance to purchase them at a 10 percent discount — can watch the team’s mandatory practice for free. The trade center’s capacity is 1,900 for Rampage games, co-owner and general manager Kacee Smith said, and the number of season tickets sold is in the “mid-twenties” with the season weeks away.

“Not as many as we want,” said Smith, who didn’t know an exact number. “Hopefully (today will) spark that. Last year, my friend that has a Fort Myers team said they were nervous and couldn’t do anything to sell them. But once February came, they started flying out the door.

“When you announce a team so far away (from the season), I guess no one has a sense of urgency.”

The artificial turf will be down and the walls surrounding the playing field will be up to allow fans the chance to preview what it will be like in a month when the first live game takes place. The only thing missing will be the uniforms.

“We’ll have some jerseys there for people to look at,” Awad said, “but to make sure nothing is messed up, we want to keep the actual uniforms for game day and have the practice jerseys for practice.”

It will be the first time many fans get to watch the players, which includes the team’s two newest signees.

The Rampage recently added defensive tackle Samuel Chester and offensive lineman Christopher Love to the roster, bringing the total number of players to 33. The roster size for training camp, which begins in February, is limited to 40 players. Only 23 can be signed for the season, with 18 active for game days.

“We’re not really sure if we’ll max the 40 or not,” Smith said. “My thing is, I’ve been around for a while and know it’s hard on these players to leave everything behind and try only to be cut.

“We’re trying to leave it to just guys we know we want, no filler.”

Chester is 6 feet, 7 inches and 330 pounds, while Love weighs the same and is 6-2.

Chester was an offensive lineman at Fort Valley State University and moved to defense during his first indoor football season with a team from Corpus Christi, Texas in 2011. In 2012, he played with Lakeland, the same team the Rampage face in the season opener.

Love played for Alabama’s Miles College and Atlanta’s Morehouse College, and played indoor football in 2011 with the Texas’ Abilene Ruff Riders. In 2012, he played for the German Football League’s Rostock Griffins.

To learn more about the Rampage or to purchase season tickets, visit the team website www.georgiarampage.com.