Legacy Sports Park, a massive 320-acre sports and entertainment complex currently under construction in East Mesa, has announced its partnership with the Cactus Football League for its 2022 season.
The partnership between Legacy Sports USA and the CFL is the first of its kind for an adult semi-pro league in Arizona. In the more than 20 years leagues similar to the CFL have been around in the state, they frequently used high school fields or local parks for games played by self-proclaimed “weekend warriors.” But Matt Archer, an East Valley resident and owner of the CFL, has built his league into one that stands out from the rest in four short years.
“Matt’s vision with his league aligned really well with ours,” said Brett Miller, president of Legacy Sports USA. “I’m very familiar with his league. There are so many leagues that allow kids and adults to play at the highest level that coincides with where they are in their life and I think that’s what the Cactus Football League does.
“It gives people an opportunity to continue to play the sport they love to play.”
As part of the agreement, three CFL games will be played every Saturday afternoon inside Legacy’s main stadium. Primarily meant to house soccer games, the multipurpose field can be repainted to accurately reflect lines found on a football field.
The venue can seat as many as 5,000 fans and will allow the opportunity for individual teams to set up makeshift stores to sell merchandise outside the stadium. Players, who stem from amateurs to former college and arena football athletes, will utilize locker rooms at the stadium. Restaurants and a beer garden will also occupy the stadium, offering a unique and pro-like game day experience for fans.
The CFL is the first adult-focused league Legacy has partnered with for the opening of its park, which is currently scheduled for January. In just the last few months, Legacy announced partnerships with Arsenal Soccer Club to become the premier youth soccer organization at the park, Elite Youth Football, Arizona Dynamics gymnastics, the Sand Club beach volleyball and just recently announced the Professional Tour of Pickleball will add a stop at Legacy.
Miller said the park expects to cater to as many as 65,000 people every weekend, which will allow leagues occupying the park to further grow and appeal to more individuals.
“Every day, every weekend will be a unique experience,” Miller said. “All at the same time we will have Cactus Football League games, soccer games, gymnastics, everything. More and more people will become aware of everything going on because it’s all at the same place, and that’s pretty cool.”
The CFL was founded by Archer in 2018. What started as an idea on how to better the semi-pro football landscape in Arizona quickly turned into the biggest and overall, best run league in the state. The league utilized Westwood High School in Mesa and Raymond S. Kellis High School in Glendale its first season in the spring of 2019. Last year, before the pandemic forced a halt to all operations, Youngker, Cortez and Sunnyslope high schools were used.
The league stuck with those three schools for the 2021 season, but Archer has always had bigger and better plans. Ultimately, he aims to own his own facility. That may come to fruition with a new multipurpose dome currently under construction in Surprise he has a stake in.
However, he didn’t want to go another year utilizing only high school facilities for games. That’s where Legacy came into play.
“They made it really easy,” Archer said of Legacy. “We got on the phone with them and told us what we wanted to do, where we wanted to take the league and the problems we were having with restrictions at high schools. They rolled out their entire plan and it was perfect.”
Since its inception, the CFL has been the premier destination for top-tier adult football clubs in the state. The league has routinely fielded well over 10 teams per season and has catered to nearly 1,000 players every season.
This past season, which officially wrapped up with the South Phoenix Runnin’ Rebels winning the league championship on June 5, the CFL had 17 teams split into two separate conferences. As many as eight games were played every week.
Along with the growth in participation, Archer has also seen a growth in his league’s brand altogether. He has created divisions of the Cactus Football League, including Cactus Media X which handles all of the league’s podcasts, photos and live-streamed games, as well as Cactus Security and a new sports drink, Cactus Fuel. But even then, he strives for more.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be satisfied because I don’t think I’ll ever be done,” Archer said. “Even when COVID hit last year we said we would have six months off, but we have worked every day on the league, on our media company, on Cactus Fuel. I’m excited for the direction we are going but I don’t think it will really hit me until everything is in place.”
Despite all he has accomplished in a short amount of time, Archer remains unsatisfied. He ultimately aims to turn the CFL into a professional developmental league with arena or NFL partnerships. He knows, however, that will take time and a more professional environment than playing at local high school stadiums.
Archer believes both the CFL, and Legacy will benefit from the partnership. Teams from all over the Valley, Tucson and Prescott will bring revenue to the East Mesa facility while more eyes will be on the league.
“It’s so exciting,” Miller said. “For years this thing has been a dream and now it’s come to fruition. ′