Cleveland Thunderbolts

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). In 1994, the franchise relocated to Columbus The team played for four seasons total, making the playoffs once. They played their home games in the Richfield Coliseum. The team was moved to Cleveland by John J. Kuczek.[1]

Cleveland Thunderbolts
Established 1991
Folded 1994
Played in Cleveland, Ohio
and Columbus, Ohio
League/conference affiliations
Arena Football League (19911994)
  • Northern Division (1992)
  • American Conference (1993–1994)
Team colorsBlack, purple, silver, white
Owner(s)John J. Kuczek (Cleveland)
Head coachEarle 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)


Columbus ThunderboltsEdit

Established as the Columbus Thunderbolts and playing its home games at the Expo Coliseum, the team relocated to Cleveland after 1991 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. The team was sold to John Kuczak and relocated to Cleveland.

Cleveland ThunderboltsEdit

The Thunderbolts operated in the Cleveland area for three 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 qualified for the playoffs in the 1992 season, but was relocated to Columbus 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 and ClevelandEdit

Thirteen years after the Thunderbolts played their lone season in Columbus, the city would see the AFL return when the Columbus Destroyers relocated from Buffalo and played five seasons (2004–2008) at Nationwide Arena. After a 10-year hiatus, the team was relaunched for the 2019 season.

Cleveland was also without an arena football team for 13 years until the Cleveland Gladiators moved from Las Vegas in 2008. The team has been on hiatus since the 2018 season due to the renovation of Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.


Notable playersEdit

All-Arena playersEdit

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

Notable coachesEdit

Head coachesEdit

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 linksEdit