Cleveland Thunderbolts

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Cleveland Thunderbolts
Established 1991
Folded 1994
Played in Cleveland, Ohio
and Columbus, Ohio
Cleveland Thunderbolts helmet
Cleveland Thunderbolts logo
Helmet Logo
League/conference affiliations

Arena Football League (19911994)

  • Northern Division (1992)
  • American Conference (1993–1994)
Team colors Black, purple, silver, white
Owner(s) John J. Kuczek
Head coach Earle Bruce
Team history
  • Columbus Thunderbolts (1991)
  • Cleveland Thunderbolts (1992–1994)
League championships (0)
Conference championships (0)
Division championships (0)
Playoff appearances (1)
Home arena(s)

The Cleveland Thunderbolts were an Arena football team based in Richfield, Ohio. The Thunderbolts were founded in 1991 and were a member of the Arena Football League (AFL), as the Columbus Thunderbolts and were based in Columbus, Ohio. In 1992, the franchise relocated to the Cleveland suburb of Richfield. The team played for four seasons total, making the playoffs once. They played their home games in the Richfield Coliseum. The team was originally owned by John J. Kuczek.[1]


Columbus Thunderbolts[edit]

Established as the Columbus Thunderbolts and playing its home games at the Ohio Expo Center Coliseum, the team relocated to Cleveland after a winless single season in the Arena Football League in 1991.

Perhaps the highlight of the team's one year in Columbus was the play of quarterback Major Harris, who rushed for 429 yards during that season, an achievement given the predominance of passing in the play of the AFL. His record was broken however in 2005 when Michael Bishop ran for 459 yards.

Cleveland Thunderbolts[edit]

The Thunderbolts then operated in the Cleveland area for three subsequent seasons, playing their home games in the suburban Richfield Coliseum, a considerable distance from downtown Cleveland, sharing it with the Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association and the Cleveland Crunch of the National Professional Soccer League. The team did somewhat better than it had in Columbus and qualified for the playoffs in the 1992 season, but was disbanded after the 1994 campaign.

Early in the T-Bolts short existence in Cleveland, John Kuczek was implicated in a federal securities fraud case in Florida. Prior to the team’s second season in 1993, Kuczek divested himself of ownership in the club and placed it in a trust for his grandchildren. Son Jeff continued as the front office leader of the organization. Kuczek was ultimately convicted on one count of the indictment. The day before he was due to begin serving his sentence in February 1995, he committed suicide in a Salem, Ohio hotel room. [2]

Revival of the AFL in Columbus & Cleveland[edit]

Fifteen years after the Thunderbolts played the lone season in Columbus, the city would see the AFL return when the Buffalo Destroyers relocated to Columbus and played three seasons (2006-2008) at Nationwide Arena.

For 13 years, the city of Cleveland, Ohio was without an arena football team. For 2008, the Las Vegas Gladiators franchise moved to Cleveland and became the city's newest team.


Notable players[edit]

All-Arena players[edit]

The following Thunderbolts players were named to All-Arena Teams:

Notable coaches[edit]

Head coaches[edit]

Note: Statistics are correct through the end of the 1994 Arena Football League season.

Name Term Regular Season Playoffs Awards
W L T Win% W L
Dave Whinham 1991-1993 6 26 0 .188 0 1
Earle Bruce 1994 2 10 0 .167 0 0



  1. ^ "John Kuczek, insurance man, arena football owner". Pittsburgh Power-Gazette. February 6, 1995. Retrieved March 4, 2014. 
  2. ^ "John Kuczek, insurance man, arena football owner". Pittsburgh Power-Gazette. February 6, 1995. Retrieved March 4, 2014. 

External links[edit]