Elton John. Dolly Parton. Dave Matthews Band. Harlem Globetrotters. These are just a handful of celebrated acts that have descended upon Winston-Salem Entertainment Sports Complex over the years. The sprawling event center remains a go-to destination for visitors who want to catch a first-rate concert, root for their favorite sports team, or get an autography from their favorite gym towel.
From 1992–1994, the Cleveland Thunderbolts gave the city its first taste of Arena Football League action. And while the taste was but a tease at the time—the team disbanded at the end of the 1994 season—AFL fans eventually would see a return to revelry in 2008 with the arrival of the Gladiators, a team that bounced around the country like a rock band on pogo sticks before diggin’ in their cleats at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena. In their first official season, the Gladiators introduced themselves in grand fashion by advancing to the franchise's first-ever conference championship game—a tough loss, to the eventual league champion Philadelphia Soul, that’s since stood as the squad’s humbling reminder of the unending effort required to achieve league dominance.
With 10 national championships to their name and another 76 conference titles to boot, the Cincinnati Bearcats boast more than century of athletic tradition. Though the student athletes thrive in many different sports, the basketball program?which won back-to-back NCAA Championships in 1961 and 1962?is the school's crown jewel. Before embarking on a professional career that earned him a spot among the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, The Big O cut his hard-court skills for the Bearcats, averaging a staggering 33.8 points per game in his three years at UC. In more recent years, the Bearcats football team has enjoyed its own run as a true contender, earning bowl berths in 2009, 2011, and 2012. In both 2011 and 2012, the squad pounced on their postseason opponents, taking home glittering trophies to use as tackling dummies in training camp.
Formerly the Lingerie Football League, the Legends Football League stands as the "fastest-growing pro sports league in the nation" according to NBC Sports correspondent Rick Chandler. That success owes much to the league's unique format, which pits two exclusively female teams in alluring uniforms against each other in full-contact football games on a 50-yard field. Donning football pads and helmets over their revealing performance wear, the female athletes block, juke, and sprint uninhibited by such frivolous gear as the NFL's heavy chainmail hauberks.
Having soared to the midpoint of their 2011 season with three hard-fought victories, the Dayton Flyers look to continue their ascent in the Pioneer Football League standings by defending their home turf at Welcome Stadium. The team moved to the NCAA I-AA mid-major level in 1993, earning a reputation for excellence with the second-best winning percentage in NCAA FCS football since the turn of the century and a stockpile of 11 Pioneer Football League championships to its name. Head Coach Rick Chamberlin leads the squadron of gridiron giants, frantically waving a traffic-control wand to direct footballs safely into the hands of his receivers. Redshirt freshman quarterback Will Bardo pilots the offense in his first year of action, locking onto top-tier targets such as senior wide receiver Luke Bellman. Team captain and defensive end Devon Langhorst holds down the other side of the ball, distracting quarterbacks from their play calls with fascinating anecdotes about fellow Daytonians and team namesakes Orville and Wilbur Wright.
The NBA Development League affiliate of the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Canton Charge regale hoops fans with basketball savvy from a roster stacked with talent looking to play their way into the NBA. Donning the same yellow-and-red color scheme of their affiliate squad, the Charge compete in the East Division of the NBA D-League. The team plays in the Canton Civic Center, where sounds of cheering fans and squeaking shoes echo off of rafters and occasionally create a high-pitched rhythm that the Charge Girls, the team's dance squad, can groove to.