DALTON, Ga. — Indoor football is returning to the Dalton Convention Center.
The Peach State Cats professional team owned by Gwinnett County resident Tim Freeman will play two 2018 home games in the center's Mashburn Arena, including the season opener on March 24 against the Carolina Cowboys of Greenville, S.C.
The Cats' other home game will be in Dalton on May 5 against Elite Indoor Football's defending champion, the Savannah Steam. Otherwise the first-year team will have six road games, as yet unscheduled, by the end of the regular season on June 2, Freeman said Wednesday in a news conference at the convention center.
The top two teams in each six-team division will go into playoffs. The league includes teams from Georgia, Florida, Alabama, South Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee — Memphis, specifically.
Freeman doubles as the Peach State Cats' general manager and acknowledged that the team originally was going to be the Gwinnnett Cats, but a team from a different indoor league made prior arrangements for the arena there. He talked to people in Rome and Augusta before deciding on Dalton as the home venue, even though it had only two dates available for games next spring.
"They've had indoor football here before with the (Georgia) Rampage, and we felt like this is more of a good fit for us," Freeman said, noting the popularity of football at all levels in northwestern Georgia and southeastern Tennessee.
He said there would be four home games in Dalton in 2019, and he would move the team's operations to the Carpet Capital then.
"We're looking to make Dalton our permanent home for 2018 and beyond," Freeman said, adding that even the first year the Peach Cats would make community involvement a priority.
Both home games will include an array of children's activities to enhance a family-friendly atmosphere, and the second one will have an added emphasis on honoring military and public-safety personnel. Admission will cost $15 for adults and $8 for students, Freeman said.
The players will be paid $50 a game, he said. Although he said he and the coaches would be looking for players who had been derailed from establishing NFL or CFL careers by injuries or other circumstances, the only rigid requirement is that they be at least three years past when their high school classes graduated.
The team will have 20 active players plus six on a practice squad.
Open tryouts will be held in Gwinnett on Nov. 11 and Dec. 9 and in Dalton on Nov. 18 and Jan. 6, Freeman said. Details will be provided soon. The team's practice schedule will begin on Jan. 14.
"We're really excited about the opportunity for semiprofessional football to be back here," Grant Shell, sports sales manager for the convention center, said at the news conference. "We'll be helping them with their marketing."
Contact Ron Bush at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6291.