SAN JOSE -- Darren Arbet isn't interested in only rebuilding the SaberCats. He's also interested in rebuilding the SaberCats' fan base.
"I want the building full," the head coach and co-owner said recently. "I'm trying to implement rallies in front of the arena. I want to have a party out there before games. I want kids in jumpy houses. I want a band playing. I want food available. I want people to have fun and let loose."
Arbet, a member of the organization since its inception in 1995, wants a return to the good old days.
For 13 years, the SaberCats were a perennial contender, winning three Arena Football League championships and boasting average home attendance of 13,761. Then, because of labor problems, the league took a two-year hiatus. In the three years since the SaberCats returned, their home attendance has averaged 9,500.
Season Four of the reboot begins Sunday with opening of training camp -- the season opener is March 17 -- but the work began months ago.
Arbet and his players have been reading to kids and stressing the importance of education in visits to schools around the area.
"I feel we need to embrace the community," Arbet said, "and if we do, the community will embrace us."
Arbet said he recently heard from a man whose son listed the SaberCats as his favorite team, and David Hyland as his favorite player.
"The dad asked why the SaberCats and why David Hyland, and the kid said, 'Because he came to our school and read to us,' " Arbet said. "It's pretty heartwarming to all of us.''
Hyland hasn't even played a game for the SaberCats. He is a new acquisition at defensive back after playing the last two seasons for the Utah Blaze. Two years ago he was the league's community involvement award winner, and part of the reason he came to San Jose was the SaberCats' increasing emphasis on community work.
"It was important to me to come to a team that does that," Hyland said. "You want to come to a team that has a chance to win, and San Jose is that. But one of my values is to reach out to the community, and it's nice to be in a place where you can do both."
San Jose quarterback Russ Michna is another of the players involved in the push to encourage education while getting the word out about the SaberCats.
"I'd like to think it makes some sort of impact," Michna said.
Arbet, already in the AFL's Hall of Fame with two Coach of the Year honors under his belt and three ArenaBowl rings on his fingers, said he has set the club's goals for this year. The SaberCats have been in the playoffs twice in the past three years, but they haven't advanced past the first round.
He's looking for more.
"I get a rush every year, because I'm trying to do better. We haven't won a championship in a long time. We haven't (ever) gone undefeated. Winning 25 games the last two years has been great, but that's not our goal. Our goal is to win championships."
And he'd like nothing better than to build a fan base that could join in the celebration.