UPSTATE — Arena football is back in the area with the team sporting a new name, new players, new owner — and a whole lot of ambitions.
The Upstate Dragons mean business, and according to owner and head coach Kent Meredith, they’re here to stay.
“It’s time for Greenville — and the whole Upstate — to get back to arena football,” said Meredith during an interview with The Sentinel-Progress. “We have a group of people who are dedicated to this, both on and off the field.”
The Dragons are a traveling team this year, but hope to lay down some permanent roots with a home in Greenville.
“There has been football in Greenville in the past — the Rhinos, the Force — but we’re different. That’s why I changed the name from the ‘Greenville Dragons’ to the ‘Upstate Dragons,’” said Meredith. “I wanted us to represent the whole region.”
Meredith said he picked the dragon as a mascot because he wanted to stand apart from other teams.
“I’ve always liked dragons, going back to when I was just a kid,” he said. “And my son loves them. I had a blanket when I was a kid that had dragons all over it and I saved it and gave it to my son. We still have it. Dragons are powerful, but they’re not popular as far as mascot choices go — it’s not a name you hear all the time. I liked that.”
But the coach warns that just because they are a traveling team doesn’t mean they should be counted out.
“We’re going to win a championship this year, our first year,” he said. “And when we get our regular home arena, we’re going to start our first year at home with a trophy already in the case.”
As for now, players, coaches and staff are not being paid and players have had to purchase their own helmets and shoulder pads, all of which Meredith says demonstrates the level of commitment everyone has to the growing program.
But it’s not just commitment on the field, for National Volunteer Week, the Dragons are planting a community garden at Clemson Downs for the Memory Care Unit on April 23 and will hold several kids camps throughout the Summer.
“We all want this and we’re working really hard,” he said. “This is a great organization. We’re going to be here for a long time to come.”
The Dragons travel to Florida on Monday to take on the Tarpons. Kick off is at 7:30 p.m. and all games are live-streamed on the team’s YouTube channel.
For more information, visit www.dragonsfootball17.com
Reach Kasie Strickland at 864-855-0355.