Update since this article was written: Charlotte Thunder finished their regular season undefeated! They are playing the North Texas Bulls in the championship game on June 26th at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $25.
Football season is in full swing, and Charlotte’s team is on top of the pack. Arena football, that is. The Charlotte Thunder has been playing home games at Bojangles’ Coliseum and a growing number of fans have discovered how entertaining Thunder football is, and what a great value the games are.
If you haven’t gone to a game yet, you’re missing a good time. The games are fast-paced and high-scoring, and they pack a ton of excitement in the 4 15-minute quarters.
You have a few more opportunities to catch Charlotte Thunder home games in 2021. (Keep reading for information on their schedule and tickets.) But you might need a little background first.
I went to my first Charlotte Thunder game on April 24th, against the St. Louis Bandits, so I’m far from an expert. But I’ll share what I’ve learned. Most importantly, though, I can tell you that the game was incredibly fun, and I’d definitely go again.
The Charlotte Thunder plays in the American Arena League. The team used to be called the Charlotte Energy. Two of the Thunder’s owners are former Panther players Thomas Davis and Ted Ginn Jr. Besides the familiarity of these names and faces, another Panther connection is the colors of the uniforms. The head coach is Ervin Bryson.
The Charlotte Thunder (formerly Energy) aren’t the first arena football team to play in Charlotte. Previous teams include the Charlotte Rage and Carolina Cobras (both of the Arena Football League) and the Carolina Speed (of the American Indoor Football Association.)
What’s the difference between arena football and the NFL?
If you’re used to watching NFL games, going to an arena football is sort of like being a German speaker at a party of Yiddish speakers. You recognize lots of the words, but the grammar is different, and you might feel like you’re missing something. But you’ll catch on quickly.
Here are some of the differences. This is far from a comprehensive list, but just a few things that I’ve learned.
Size of field
The football field in arena football is 50 yards long–half the distance of an NFL field. So, the 25 yard line is the center of the field. It’s also much narrower than an NFL field. It’s comparable to a hockey rink in size. There are no sidelines. Instead there are barriers (as in hockey) and a player is out of bounds when he’s pushed or falls into or over the barrier.
Each team has eight players on the field at a time, instead of eleven. One offensive player can start running toward the line of scrimmage before the snap, as long as he doesn’t cross the line of scrimmage before the ball is snapped. So, effectively, a receiver gets a running start.
The goal posts are different. They hang from the rafters, and are 9 feet wide, with a crossbar height of 15 feet. NFL goal posts are twice as wide and the crossbar is just 10 feet from the ground. So the goal area is taller and skinnier than the NFL.
Kickoffs are from the goal line. And here’s one big difference. If a kickoff goes through the goal posts, it’s worth one point. That happened three times in the game I went to, so it must not be too unusual.
Punting is not allowed. The offense has to play the fourth down. However, they can try for a field goal, and if the ball bounces back onto the field, it can be played, so I guess that’s kind of like a punt?
How Good is the Charlotte Thunder?
How good are the Thunder? They’re really good. If you want to watch a Charlotte sports team dominate their competition, watch the Charlotte Thunder this season. As of the time of this article, they’re undefeated, with a record of 9-0.
Scores of previous games this season:
- Against Pennsylvania: 69-12
- Against South Carolina: 84-12
- Against Tampa Bay: 46-9
- Against Georgia: 64-6
- Against St. Louis: 72-33
- Against Carolina: 62-18
- Against Mississippi: 66-31
- Against Jersey Bearcats: 75-7
- Against Reading Raptors: 62-18
- Against Carolina Predators: 90-12
So, ok, these games are not exactly nail-biters, but isn’t it sometimes fun to just win? And to win big? Don’t we all need a little winning right about now? The Thunder are doing this for Charlotte.
Going to a Game
Tickets are cheap. So cheap. They are $15 or $20. Although prices can conceivably vary, that’s the price of tickets I’m seeing. And you can get fantastic seats for $20. I took the pictures you see in this post from the 25-yard line, with $20 tickets, just on my phone.
Remaining home schedule:
- May 22nd, 7:30 p.m. vs. the Jersey Bearcats
- May 29th, 7:30 p.m. vs. Tampa Tornadoes
- June 6th, 3 p.m. vs. the Mississippi Raiders
More entertainment at the Game
Game day also features a high-energy cheerleading squad, a half-time show and a pretty catchy Charlotte Thunder anthem by Cutty Cutright.
Health and Safety
Social distancing is no longer enforced, nor is mask-wearing. Non-vaccinated people should continue to wear masks, as per the CDC guidance.