More than 100 people attended a Jan. 26 meet-and-greet at the Morgan Hill Community & Cultural Center with Bay Area Panthers head coach Darren Arbet and other staff for the new Indoor Football League squad, who earlier this month announced that they will conduct practices in Morgan Hill for the 2023 season.
Attendees at the Thursday night event were treated to free beverages and snacks while they had the opportunity to converse and take photos with Arbet and Panthers front office administrators. Local band The Jukebox Boyz entertained the crowd with live rock and roll tunes before team officials made their remarks.
Members of the Panthers Dance Team handed out fliers printed with the team’s 2023 schedule, which begins March 26 and includes seven home games at SAP Center in San Jose. A prize raffle and games were offered for attendees.
The event was sponsored by the City of Morgan Hill Chamber of Commerce and Visit Morgan Hill.
Members of the Panthers’ front office spoke to the crowd about why they decided to move their corporate and practice headquarters to Morgan Hill, and get the audience hyped up about the upcoming season. The Panthers will begin practicing at the Outdoor Sports Center on Condit Road March 12. The team will also use the next-door Aquatics Center, Centennial Recreation Center and other local facilities.
Panthers co-owner Roy Choi said the team’s choice of Morgan Hill was facilitated by local connections held by team insiders, including Arbet—who used to live nearby—and longtime local resident and youth sports proponent Jeff Dixon. Dixon now works for the Panthers at their new headquarters on Church Street.
“It would have taken years to get to where we are now if it wasn’t for Coach Arbet and for all the people, (including) Jeff, who made this happen,” Choi told the crowd. “We signed a coach, but along with that coach we got a whole city to come along with it.”
Choi added, “When we got a tour of the Aquatics Center and the Community Center here and all the services the city provides, I think the residents here know the secret—it really is a well kept secret but this city really treats its residents really well. It’s a great place to live, and we’re just really proud to be partners with the city.”
The Panthers’ inaugural season was in 2022. The team is co-owned by Choi and former NFL star running back Marshawn Lynch. The Panthers’ first game of the 2023 season is scheduled for March 26 against the Arizona Rattlers, at their SAP Center home field in San Jose.