Predators future looks bright with new ownership in place

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Will Ogburn / The SkyBoat

WestGate Resorts' David Siegel (middle-left) will move the Predators back into the Amway Center next season.

In front of an audience containing season ticket holders and members of the Central Florida Sports Commission, Mayor Buddy Dyer announced that the Orlando Predators have been purchased by WestGate Resorts Mogul David Siegel on Tuesday, July 15 at the Predator’s new home, the Amway Center.

After an icebreaking introduction from Dyer and the official welcoming to the league from the Arena Football League commissioner Jerry Kurz, Siegal took the podium and acknowledged some attendants such as the Predators president, cheerleaders, his family, and head coach Rob Keefe.

“In our audience, we have our coach Rob Keefe. Someone asked me if i was going to be making any changes, I said we got the best coach in the league, why should I change a good, working formula.” “And Buddy [Dyer], we’re gonna bring the ArenaBowl here with our team hosting it.”

Keefe is the only person in league history to win a championship as both a player and a head coach. Currently in his first year coaching for the Predators, he has led them to the top of the southern division with a 9-7 record.

“The Orlando Predators have been in our community a staple since 1991… As a tourism industry veteran we know the key is providing a memorable guest experience, blah blah blah blah that’s enough of that, you don’t like to hear written statements anyway” said Siegel breaking the monotony of the press conference and showing his lighter side. “Today is a great day for the Orlando community, it’s a great day for the charities in Central Florida, it’s a great day for WestGate.”

He goes on to mention special things coming up for veterans and school children. Also brought up is how he has been trying to be involved with Orlando sports for 20 years, almost having a hand in an Orlando MLB team, and even almost buying the Orlando Magic on two separate occasions.

Siegel says he is proud of the Predators and has been a fan for 25 years and has attended many games and continues to boast about Keefe and the new partnership with the Amway Center.

From the teams inception in 1991 until 2010, the Predators played in the old Amway Arena then moved to the new Amway Center when that was built in 2011 until 2013 when the team was forced to move due to a debt with the city to the CFE Arena.

Prior to 2013 in the old arenas, the team had an average attendance of just under 14,000 and in the CFE Arena, located on the UCF Campus, the team is averaging only 5,000 fans per game. With this obviously flawed move to the CFE Arena, Siegel knew he had to secure a deal with the Amway and return the once proud team to its original home.

“I’m humbled, we’re gonna make it exciting for families to come out to see games, I watched a few at UCF and that was definitely not the right place to have our team and I think our performance showed that when we were over there.” said Siegel about his desire to leave the CFE Arena. “When you have thousands of screaming fans that will be at our games next year here, the electricity in the arena will propel us to heights we’ve never seen before.

“We are gonna win, and we are gonna win often. Orlando is a winner and our team is a winner.” added Siegel.

With life-long fans, season ticket holders, and even members of the organization being in the dark about the fate of their team for so long, this announcement came as a sigh of relief reassuring them that their home team isn’t going anywhere and has a promising future.

After the desertion of the team by former owner Brett Bouchy, who left the team in tens of thousands in debt and left to form the L.A. Kiss with Gene Simmons, David Pearsall took over as majority owner. Then following a disagreement with the league, Pearsall left the team in the league’s hands. Now with the new owner finally brought to public eye, the team can finally look ahead.

“All the things that we went through as an organization that you guys will never know, that we said at the end of the day that winning solves a lot of problems.” said Keefe at the press conference following Monday’s 66-33 win against the Iowa Banstormers. “I feel like I took over an organization that was on the brink, and the players don’t know it, the interns don’t know it, some of my staff members don’t know it, but this thing was… it was dark, and I’m proud of it, I’m getting emotional now, but I’m so proud that we were strong enough to say that we will be full go here very shortly.”

The new owner also promises to utilize the whole Amway Center, selling out the venue or even donating empty seats to inner-city children, veterans, good students, and other organizations to get people to fill the arena and return the team to it’s former glory.

“We’re here to say and I like to tell people that my grandchildren will be running this team one day.”

With only two games remaining in the season, the Predators can clinch a top spot in the division after a win over the New Orleans Voodoo this Saturday, July 19 in New Orleans, then the team will return home to face the west coast leader, the Arizona Rattlers for the final game of the season.