Central Florida’s other Professional Hockey Team Preparing for Season

February 23, 2005 - Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) - Florida Seals News Release

CELEBRATION, FL – While the NHL and Tampa Bay Lightning have officially canceled their entire season, Central Florida’s other professional hockey team is busy getting ready for the start of their first season in Osceola County’s new Silver Spurs Arena.

The Florida Seals, who were forced to suspend operations for one season after the City of Orlando unexpectedly terminated the team’s lease at the TD Waterhouse Center last August, have experienced a surge in new season ticket and corporate partnership sales since the franchise announced that the team would be relocating to the new 8,300 seat Silver Spurs Arena for the 2005-06 season.

“We have sold more new season tickets since our open house party in December than the team has sold over the past two years combined,” said Seals General Manager, Chris Lipuma. “I think the people in Osceola County are excited to have professional hockey coming to their community this October and have really stepped up to support the team.”

The Seals believe the support will continue to grow as the team draws closer to dropping the puck for their inaugural season at the Silver Spurs Arena this October. The Silver Spurs Arena offers plenty of upside for both the Seals organization and their fans. Conveniently located just off the Florida Turnpike, the new arena boasts spectacular sightlines for hockey, free parking, spacious open concourse areas, and with only 8,300 seats and a low ceiling, the atmosphere is expected to be the best in the SPHL. The majority of the teams 28 home games will take place on weekends which the Seals believe will pay huge dividends in attracting large crowds throughout the season.

Another luxury the Silver Spurs Arena offers is the ability for the Seals to create ice level suites for corporations looking to entertain during Seals hockey games. A limited number of “Ice Suites” are available for only $7,500 and each suite will include twelve glass-side seats, VIP parking, premium food and beverage service, and company name/logo recognition on the backside of the suite.

While the Seals are marketing to new fans, they are also very thank-full for the ongoing support of the fans that have supported the team the past two seasons while playing in the TD Waterhouse Center. The organization offered their existing season ticket holders an aggressive incentive program last October to continue to keep their season ticket investment with the team for the 2005-06 season and was successful in retaining close to 90% of their fan base.

“We wouldn’t still be here without the loyal support of our season ticket holders the past two seasons,” said Seals owner, David Waronker. “They are the lifeblood of our organization and we really wanted to reward them for their ongoing support of our franchise."

The Seals, who are operating out of a temporary office in Celebration, FL currently employ eight full time employees. While each staff member has different responsibilities, everyone contributes to promoting and selling Seals hockey. From making appearances at local rotary club meetings and chamber events to setting up the team’s interactive slap shot booth at various community events, the Seals are staying active.

The organization plans to capitalize on the upcoming months with an aggressive advertising and grass-roots campaign. The Seals have partnered with Outlook Media and will be debuting three new billboards in the coming weeks in close proximity to the Silver Spurs Arena along U.S Highway 192.

The Seals will also be partnering with the Osceola News-Gazette in an exciting grass-roots street hockey program called “Seals on Wheels.” Seals on Wheels is a series of FREE inline hockey clinics that will be conducted throughout Osceola County by the Florida Seals. Players and coaches from the team will instruct participants at the clinics in passing, shooting, skating, safety and teamwork. The clinics will be open to boys and girls between the ages of 6 and 16 and held in the Seals new NHL CoolAir Arena, a state-of-the-art, inflatable rink system designed by the National Hockey League.

Not only are the Seals preparing for their debut in a new arena this season, the team is also preparing for their debut in the new Southern Professional Hockey League. The SPHL was formed last year by eight of the strongest minor league hockey teams in the South East. Most of the teams in the SPHL have at least four years of previous operating experience along with a proven track record of success.

The Seals expect the competition to be fierce in the larger and stronger SPHL and fans can look forward to a renewed rivalry with the Jacksonville Barracudas this season along with other Florida cities that may join the SPHL.

In an effort to return to championship form, the organization will continue to make significant improvements both on and off the ice. The team is currently in negotiations with a coaching candidate for the 2005-06 season and expect to make a formal announcement near the end of April. At that time, the Seals will also announce up to six player signings for the upcoming SPHL season.

“Ruth and I were not pleased with the teams overall performance during 2003-2004,” said David Waronker. “We failed to put an aggressive, winning team on the ice and we failed to be a vital part of the community off the ice. From ownership, management, support staff, coaching and to the players we will be an integral part of Osceola County and Central Florida. And, we will be a great neighbor with strong community support and involvement. And on the ice, we will make sure that we ice the most physical, best conditioned, aggressive and entertaining team in the SPHL. We will earn the respect of our fans and our community. Going to a Seals game will be a novelty, a significant event.”

“Part of our commitment to the community and charity includes our involvement with the “Travis Roy Foundation”, which foundation assists people stricken with spinal cord injuries,” added Waronker. “We also support “H4K”, which provides the thrill and excitement of ice hockey to children who are economically and physically challenged. Each night at least 20 children from Central Florida shall be treated as our guests as they are hosted by the Seals staff and players at one of our home games.”

In the mean time, the Seals are working diligently with SMG, the management company of the Silver Spurs Arena, to finalize installation plans for the ice system in the Silver Spurs Arena. The Seals have asked Burleys Arena Ice Systems to select and design a rink system based upon the mutual needs of both the Silver Spurs Arena and Seals. In an effort to reduce changeover time and improve operational flexibility, Burleys Arena Ice Systems has recommended installing the transmission lines and rink piping headers of the ice system permanently in the arena floor. The remaining elements of the ice system including the chiller, ice mat, and the arena’s boards and glass will be portable to ensure quick and efficient changeovers for other events. The total cost and installation of the ice system, which the Seals have agreed to pay for in their agreement with the Silver Spurs Arena, is expected to be approximately $300,000.

The Seals are looking to partner with local businessman Wayne Hilmer to establish the Florida Seals Skating Academy. The Seals Skating Academy would work around the various events scheduled at the Silver Spurs Arena to offer top quality instruction in basic skating, advanced figure and free skating, pair skating, ice dancing, choreography, and more.

In addition to the Seals Skating Academy, the Seals plan to launch a Junior Seals program, an initiative dedicated to developing interest and participation in ice hockey throughout Central Florida.

“Participation and interest in hockey throughout Central Florida has grown by leaps and bounds over the past several years,” said Seals General Manager, Chris Lipuma. “The youth hockey programs in the area are doing a phenomenal job and the Junior Seals program will allow us to continue to develop good young hockey players and prepare them for team play.”

Fans can purchase season tickets for the Florida Seals upcoming 2005-06 season along with new Seals merchandise including replica game jerseys, t-shirts, hockey pucks, miniature hockey sticks and more by calling the Seals office at (321) 939-2465. The Seals are currently upgrading their website, www.floridaseals.com to enable fans to purchase merchandise and season tickets online in the coming weeks.

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