The Bay Area Panther team and staff pose for a group photo as they celebrate their Aug. 5 Indoor Football League National Championship win. Photo: Robert Guynn
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After being stationed in Morgan Hill for less than a year—and winning a national championship during that time—the Bay Area Panthers are searching for a new “long-term home starting in 2024,” according to team staff. 

The Panthers earlier this year posted a “Request For Proposals” from cities in the Bay Area (and beyond) that might be interested in hosting the Indoor Football League team’s headquarters. Potential suitors include Oakland, Sacramento, San Jose and Stockton, says an Aug. 17 press release from the Panthers. 

Each of those four cities “features an executive community board to help rally support from the local business community,” says the press release. 

This week, the PIVOT Agency—a sports marketing firm commissioned by the Panthers—announced that Former Parent Company CEO and Clorox C-Suite Executive Troy Datcher will lead the City of Oakland’s effort to entice the Panthers to move to the East Bay metropolis. 

Datcher is “a dedicated member of the East Bay community,” serving on the Board of The Clorox Company Foundation and as Chair of the East Oakland Youth Development Center Foundation, says the press release from the Panthers. 

The City of Morgan Hill has enjoyed the Panthers’ presence in town since the team moved their corporate headquarters and practice regime here in January. The team has been practicing at the Outdoor Sports Center on Condit Road during the 2023 season—a riveting one for the Panthers that ended with an Aug. 5 victory in the IFL National Championship game in Henderson, Nev. 

In 2022, the Panthers won only one game the entire season. 

One of the Panthers’ biggest fans this year has been Mayor Mark Turner, a frequent attendee of home games at SAP Center in San Jose and a face of the city’s support for the squad’s local presence. 

Turner said the city has been aware of the Panthers’ RFP in search of a new home for a while. He suggested that if he can’t keep the Panthers in Morgan Hill, the next best location is nearby San Jose. 

“We have had numerous conversations with team owner, Roy Choi, regarding our desire to keep the team headquartered in Morgan Hill,” Turner said by email. “I have met with officials from San Jose, including Mayor Matt Mahan and San Jose Sharks CEO Jonathan Becher, about ways we can work together to convince the team to remain in San Jose (and Morgan Hill).”

Turner said the city’s relationship with the Panthers has been “excellent” over the past nine months. The community has shown Choi how supportive they are of the Panthers, as demonstrated by a parade held Aug. 11 to celebrate the team’s national championship—a procession that was attended by more than 1,000 local fans, Turner said. 

“The Panthers’ players and coaches have been immersed in the community over this period of time volunteering at community gatherings, visiting schools and other events,” Turner added. “We have enjoyed their participation, dedication and commitment to Morgan Hill. We are going to continue working with team officials, San Jose officials and others to keep the Bay Area Panthers home in the Bay Area.”

When owners Choi and Marshawn Lynch founded the Panthers for their inaugural 2019 season, they had always intended to play and practice in Oakland. However, following the cancellation of the 2020 season due to the pandemic and the subsequent withdrawal from the 2021 season, the Panthers changed venues to the SAP Center for their 2022 and 2023 seasons, says the Aug. 17 press release.

Lynch—an Oakland native and NFL legend who played two seasons with the Oakland Raiders—suggested the East Bay city is his top choice for the Panthers’ long-term home.

“Oakland is home, and I’d love to see the Panthers play here,” Lynch said in the press release. “Seeing this team win the championship over the weekend (Aug. 5) was something special, and it would mean even more to see them win while representing the city I love.”

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Michael Moore is an award-winning journalist who has worked as a reporter and editor for the Morgan Hill Times, Hollister Free Lance and Gilroy Dispatch since 2008. During that time, he has covered crime, breaking news, local government, education, entertainment and more.

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