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Michigan Businessman Purchases Storm

March 14, 2002 - Arena Football League (AFL) - Tampa Bay Storm News Release

TAMPA, FL - Michigan businessman Thom Hopper completed the successful acquisition of the Arena Football League’s Tampa Bay Storm, the team announced Thursday. The transaction is valued at over $12 million, the largest amount paid for an Arena Football team in the 16-year history of the league.

Hopper’s purchase of the team gives the Storm its third owner. The team will begin its 12th season in April.

“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to become a part of the Storm organization,” said Hopper. “I have always had a very strong passion for the game of football and being able to take over an organization with the history and legacy of the Tampa Bay Storm is an honor and a privilege. It’s also a dream come true.

“I feel that I have purchased one of the crown jewels of the league. Tampa Bay has great fans and this is a great community. Our main goal will be to bring a championship back to the Tampa area.”

Hopper takes over as owner from Peter C. “Woody” Kern, who purchased the team on September 1, 1994. Kern quickly became one of the most successful owners in Arena Football history, winning back-to-back ArenaBowl championships in his first two seasons of ownership.

Kern’s legacy is one of immense success on and off the field. Under his watch the Storm won ArenaBowls in 1995 and 1996 and won 81 of 111 games played. From July 1, 1995, to June 29, 1996, his Storm club won an AFL-record 17 consecutive games. The franchise hosted ArenaBowl IX on September 1, 1995, and attracted a league playoff record 25,087 fans to the ThunderDome in St. Petersburg, Fla., for the Storm’s 48-35 win over in-state rival Orlando. The following season Kern’s club repeated as Arena Football champions with a 42-38 ArenaBowl X victory over the Kurt Warner-led Iowa Barnstormers and finished the season with a league-record 15 wins.

“This is a bitter-sweet day for me,” said Kern. “I have had such a great time in Arena Football. I’ve made many lifelong friends and I will never forget the fond memories of the Tampa Bay Storm and the Tampa Bay community. The Storm will always be a part of me.

“Having said that, I feel very comfortable leaving the team in the capable hands of Thom Hopper. I know he will continue the winning tradition that has come to be associated with Tampa Bay Storm football and I feel confident in saying that the glory days of the Storm’s past will soon be matched by an incredibly bright future.”

Hopper takes over the flagship franchise of Arena Football. The Storm has won more games than any other organization in league history and has advanced to the post-season in every season of existence. Tampa Bay’s four ArenaBowl championships tie the Detroit Drive for the most ever.

The team will continue its unique sales and marketing partnership with the Ice Palace. The agreement, originally forged by Kern and Ice Palace President Ron Campbell in 1999, transfers all aspects of the Storm’s sales, marketing, and broadcast efforts to Campbell’s Ice Palace staff, while head coach and general manager Tim Marcum handles the team’s football operations.

“We are as optimistic as ever about the future of the Tampa Bay Storm with the involvement of Thom Hopper,” said Marcum, the league’s all-time winningest coach and an Arena Football League Hall of Fame member. “We are also very grateful to Mr. Kern and everything he’s done for the organization. We will miss him without a doubt, and we look forward to continuing his legacy of excellence with Thom.”

Hopper’s business interests include Concept One, one of the Midwest’s largest residential mortgage brokerage firms, and Klear Title Corporation, one of the Midwest’s leading title companies.

An avid golfer, Hopper has also pursued a professional golf career as a member of the PGA Mini Tour and the Canadian PGA Tour (1993-96). Hopper has continued his pursuit of membership in the Senior PGA Tour and has enjoyed success in a number of Senior Mini Tour events.

Born on August 20, 1948, in Flint, Mich., Hopper attended college at the National College of Chiropractors and the American College of Internists at Wayne State University. He completed his post-graduate studies at the University of Michigan.

An active sportsman, Hopper enjoys the outdoors, golf, reading, movies, and travel. He resides in Fenton, Mich., with wife Linda. The two have three children, Tammy (31), Tina (29), and Jarratte (21). They also have three grandchildren.

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The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.

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