Time to Saddle Up
Northern Light Cowboys ready for Carson Park action
Since the mid-2000s, organized warm-weather adult football has had a presence in the Eau Claire metropolitan area. The Chippewa Valley Predators had been around for over a decade, and were joined for a time in the city by the Eau Claire Crush. However, with the demise of the Predators before last summer, a gap was created for those wanting to watch – or play – semi-pro football in the city. This year, that gap will be filled at Carson Park by the Northern Light Cowboys.
The Cowboys are actually moving west, having previously played as the Stanley Cowboys. General Manager Christie Black says the franchise began pondering a shift in home at the conclusion of last season, having seen more of their players coming from closer to Eau Claire.
“With the addition of so many players from the area, the support from the Eau Claire area grew also,” Black said. “So we figured, why have the fan travel 45 minutes to the game when most of our support was coming from Eau Claire.”
With the name and city change comes a change in venue, from Oriole Park to the highest-profile football stadium in western Wisconsin: Carson Park, the autumn home of the Blugolds, Huskies, Old Abes, and Ramblers. When you go to see the Northern Light Cowboys, you will get more than just football. Says Black: “We want to create a family type of atmosphere for our fans while adding the feel of a college football game day. There will be themed games, giveaways, half-time shows, and games in an effort to give fans the best experience we possibly can.”
Those who followed the Chippewa Valley Predators know that they competed in the Northern Elite Football League (NEFL), culminating with some appearances in the Elite Bowl. The Cowboys will be involved in a different circuit, the new Champions Amateur Football League (CAFL). According to Black, the newness of the CAFL belies the experience that comprises its franchises.
“The league consists of eight teams that have been around for years with the same goals for their players and organization,” Black said. “Three of those teams are from the NEFL, which was considered one of the toughest semi-pro leagues in the U.S.” Additionally, the Cowboys are a 501(c)(3) non-profit adult amateur football team.
Black notes that the CAFL athletes you will see this year have had football as a significant part of their life. Most of the players in this league are ex-college and former professional players, or they are playing with the hopes of playing in college or professionally, according to Black.
A certain intangible reward comes to those players, as well. For taking part in CAFL action, “Players get the opportunity to continue playing the game we all love in a family atmosphere,” Black said. “They will have the chance to continue putting their best foot forward in achieving their own personal goals that may involve football.”
The Northern Light Cowboys join the CAFL having won the 2018 Northern Lights Football League championship during their last season in Stanley. Their inaugural Eau Claire campaign kicks off on Saturday, April 20, at 4pm at Carson Park, the first of 13 regular season games. Their slate includes a road game to be played at TCF Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Golden Gophers.
A recent Independence Day tradition at Carson Park will resume with the arrival of the Cowboys, as football and baseball will again simultaneously take place on the adjacent fields for the respective sports. As the Express play their annual Fourth of July game in the baseball stadium, the Cowboys will have a special match against the River City Roughriders. Two rounds of playoffs could lead to a Northern Light Cowboys appearance in the CAFL Championship game on Saturday, Aug. 10.
Plan your Saturdays accordingly, find some orange and purple clothes, look for Carson the mascot, and get ready to be a part of the resumption of spring and summer football in Eau Claire.
Learn more about the team at northernlightcowboys.com, or follow them on Facebook.