Startup hockey team wants to play in Amway Center
October 14, 2011, 1:49 am
A startup minor-league hockey team may be headed to Orlando. A group of would-be team owners has spent a year talking with Orlando officials and the East Coast Hockey League about bringing a new franchise to the Amway Center.
On Monday, the City Council is expected to approve a lease with the as-yet-unnamed team, a prerequisite to applying for franchise approval from the ECHL. The Double-A league has been around since the mid-1980s, has 20 teams and affiliations with the National Hockey League and the American Hockey League.
If the arena lease and the league franchise are approved — both of which seem likely — the team would begin playing in the 2012-13 season.
It would be the first hockey team to call Orlando home since the minor-league Orlando Seals played at the Amway Arena from 2002-04. Before the Seals, the International Hockey League’s Solar Bears played the last of its six seasons at the arena in 2000-01.
“From a lot of standpoints, Orlando is a good fit for [the ECHL],” said Bob Ohrablo, part of the ownership team, Orlando Pro Hockey Operations LP. “It’s one of the largest markets in the country right now without a team.”
Both Ohrablo and Mayor Buddy Dyer pointed to the enthusiastic crowd of 11,688 fans who attended an exhibition game between the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning and St. Louis Blues at the Amway Center.
“There are certainly people who have moved from the North who are purely hockey fans, to the exclusion of other sports. And adding to the menu of offerings we have is good for the Amway Center,” Dyer said.
A draft version of a three-year lease reviewed by the Orlando Sentinel would allow the team to use the Amway Center for 36 home games. The team would pay the city $22,000 per game in its first year and $25,000 in the second and third years.