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Semi-pro football return to FLX as Auburn Commanders are born

The concept of a semi-pro football team is not something unheard of in the Finger Lakes. Over the last several years, the Finger Lakes Impact were a mainstay in the region, until it ran into challenges. Like any business managing, maintaining and keeping a semi-pro football team afloat can be a daunting task. It requires a person or persons with unique skill set, and of course — a person who has football flowing through their veins.In 2014 Chris Kitchens met Brandy Townsend. Both had a passion for the game and wanted to be actively involved with the community. These were the things they knew. What they did not realize was where their shared passion for football would take them in the year following.Kitchens was raised in Collins, Mississippi and relocated to New York in 2005. When he graduated from high school he joined his local IBEW. After becoming a lineman in his trade, he became more involved with the Finger Lakes Impact. He spent four years as a running back for the Finger Lakes Impact. Townsend graduated from Clyde-Savannah high school and pursued a career in nursing. Upon graduation from nursing school in 2009, she was certain that helping people and community involvement were going to be significant parts of her future. After giving birth to her daughter, she knew that helping children was where her greatest passion was — which led to accepting a position with BOCES Special Education.Fast-forward to present day and the duo have put their passion to the test, as they now reach the final stages of making the Auburn Commanders a reality. The team has already had one tryout with significant feedback from potential players and the community. Sponsors are already lining up, the team is taking shape, and the future looks bright for the Auburn Commanders. In addition to forming a football team, the Auburn Commanders will have a dance team, as well, of which Townsend will be leading. Even Kitchens plans on being an active member of the team itself. In addition to owning and operating the team, the plan is for Kitchens to be a player-owner. FingerLakes1.com caught up with the pair to discuss their future within the community in Auburn. The team will be playing at Bracht Field at Mynderse Academy in Seneca Falls during year one. The long-term goal will be to play in Auburn. However, until Auburn has a turf facility — Bracht Field will be home for the Auburn Commanders. The Commanders will be a part of the NFA — which consists of 14 semi-pro teams. The farthest the team will travel for a game will be to Troy, New York.The Auburn Commanders have their second tryout coming up on February 6th at 6 pm and everyone from the community is invited. The tryout will be held at the Champions for Life Sports Center in Auburn. Kitchens said of the opportunity to start this team that it “Gives the players a second chance and an opportunity to give back to the community.” The pair are also working on sponsorship packages for players to have some of the costs associated with playing covered. This is going to be the ideal opportunity for local businesses in the Auburn and Seneca Falls communities to get involved with a team that hopes to be a long-term staple in the Finger Lakes.Many people don’t realize the commitment and investment required to run a semi-pro football team, which is always a major problem for teams like this. While it’s an incredible opportunity for players to get a scholarship to college, which is common among semi-pro teams — that opportunity comes at the cost of roughly $10,000 per year. Kitchens pointed out that the net cost at the end of the year is roughly $10,000 at the organizational level, which doesn’t account for individual player equipment. Players often find sponsorships individually through local businesses in a “sponsor a player” type of situation.The pair told FingerLakes1.com that at the end of the day it’s about reaching out to the community. The two said of launching the Commanders that, “Starting this team together has been such a great opportunity for us. We have been able to meet new people and become involved with our community. This is allowing younger talent a chance to be recognized. Together, we are certain the Auburn Commanders will become a successful organization.”Some significant dates coming up for the Auburn Commanders beyond the February 6th tryout are closer to spring — when the first of four scheduled preseason games. Additionally, a league meeting is scheduled in the coming weeks, where the team will be voted on and made official.Stay tuned to FingerLakes1.com for more coverage of the Auburn Commanders as they head into their first season under the leadership of Chris Kitchens and Brandy Townsend.

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