The construction of the Enmarket Arena isn’t even complete, but Savannah’s $ 200 million multi-purpose facility will be haunted. Guaranteed.
Officials for the team of Savannah’s first professional ice hockey franchise revealed the name of the arena’s main tenant on Wednesday: the Savannah Ghost Pirates.
The name and logo had been kept under wraps as the team reviewed approximately 3,070 fan submissions in a team name contest. Andy Kaufmann, team CEO and majority owner, said about four entries had Ghost Pirates.
“We put a lot of time and work into making sure we got it right,” Kaufmann said after the Ghost Coast Distillery name and logo unveiled, which should have been a clue there, and the week Halloween, yet another signal perhaps.
He can already imagine some fun possibilities with ghost and pirate themes, like dressing the Zamboni like a pirate ship. More than marketing and a kid-friendly mascot – which is probably the next big reveal with jerseys – the name had to match Savannah.
“We wanted to make sure we captured the soul and what this city represents in a fun, positive, loving and unifying way,” said Kaufmann, noting that the winners of the competition will be rewarded. “This is all the thiSavannah team, this is not my team, this is our team. Our goal is to make sure we call her in such a way that she represents Savannah.”
The expansion franchise will represent Savannah in the ECHL minor league (think Double-A level for hockey) starting in the 2022-23 season. The current regular season started on October 21 and continues until April 17, so the scheduled arena completion date of February 2022 was too late to play in 2021-22.
With the Ghost Pirates’ debut almost a year away, they’ve already poured out the competitive juice of Savannah Mayor Van Johnson. When city, team and league officials announced the upcoming franchise in January, he called out other cities in the league’s southeast.
He has not heard from the mayors of these towns.
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“They know the Ghost Pirates are on the map and we are chasing them,” Johnson said Wednesday. “This is the last year that their league will operate as usual. Next year we are taking over.”
ECHL, a development league affiliated with NHL and AHL clubs, has 27 teams from coast to coast, with clubs in the United States and Canada. The seven-team southern division would be geographically suitable for Savannah and consists of the Atlanta Gladiators; stingrays from South Carolina to North Charleston; Greenville Swamp Rabbits (SC); the admirals of Norfolk in Virginia; the Icemen of Jacksonville (Florida); the Orlando solar bears; and the Florida Everblades in Estero.
“It’s going to be a whole different world (next October),” said team president Bob Ohrablo. “It will be great to have Savannah in the league. We already have rivals with the Jacksonville team as well as Charleston, South Carolina and Atlanta. We are going to prepare. The mayor says I have to win every game. C is my toughest boss. “
Mayor Johnson grew up being a fan of the Islanders and NHL Rangers in New York City, and expects competitive games and a winning team in the host city.
“The most exciting thing is that we are known as a city with permanent sports teams,” said Johnson, noting the Savannah Bananas, a summer college baseball team with two league titles in six years of existence. “There’s baseball, which nobody thought the Coastal Plain League was going to work for. It’s worked, outperformed. Here now for hockey, really introducing generations of young and old to hockey and ice in the game. one of the hottest cities in the country. “
He said of the Ghost Pirates name, “It’s hot. The name works. We want people to be excited about it.”
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Fans in attendance agreed with the mayor, who cheered the crowd on with chants of “Ghost Pirates”.
“It’s very similar to the names I expected, which were like Wraiths and Ghosts and that sort of thing,” said Caitie Horan, 27, of Pooler. “I like that. It’s funny, the idea of haunted Savanah.”
Jayson Fischer, 28, who has season tickets with Horan, added: I was hoping for a ghost and haunted theme, so I’m pretty excited. It’s gonna be fun.”
They entered the team name contest with Phantoms and Specters. Season pass holder Austin Sullivan, 81, of Richmond Hill, competed in River Rats and St. Pats, drawing inspiration from Savannah’s huge St.Patrick’s Day traditions as well as a nod. eye for former Toronto St. Patricks hockey (known as the St. Pats). team of 100 years ago.
As for Ghost Pirates, Sullivan, who played hockey until the age of 76, said, “I think it’s okay. I see a lot of marketing potential in it.
It fits the history of Savannah with ghosts and tours of supposedly haunted places that continue to this day. It also fits with the town’s folklore about pirates, both the marine genre fictionalized in popular culture, and the mascot of Armstrong’s former state sports teams, which thrived for 50 years until ‘they were discontinued a few years ago with the university’s merger with Georgia Southern. University.
“Of course everyone loved the Armstrong Pirates and there are still people who call themselves Pirates,” Johnson said. “It’s a name that works and fits perfectly into Savannah’s history and looks to our future. I’m excited about what it means, especially in our brand new arena.”
He was not the only one. Kaufmann also owns the ECHL Jacksonville team and the Florida Single-A State League’s Fort Myers Mighty Mussels baseball team. He said he has been eager to introduce the Savannah team name since the franchise extension was announced in January.
“This is a great day for what will be the long and exciting history of Savannah Ghost Pirates hockey,” said Kaufmann. “It started here now. We are motivated. Not just for what’s going to happen on the ice, but also off the ice. We are going to have a lot of fun being a positive factor in the community. We are going to bring children to the ice who otherwise would not be able to afford it. Maybe help develop skills and get scholarships.
Kaufmann was joined on Wednesday by several co-owners of the new franchise, including former NFL defensive end Reggie Hayward, who played for the Denver Broncos and Jacksonville Jaguars from 2001 to 2009.
“I’m from the Midwest. I wanted to take root here in this area,” said Hayward, 42, who lives in Jacksonville and is also a part owner of the Icemen. “Getting involved with the Ghost Pirates of Savannah, GA – so close to Jacksonville it felt right to me. I wanted something special, that Savannah needed a sports team and they’re super excited about it. C it was just obvious joining this group. “
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Sonjia Jack is the mother of star Jaguars linebacker Myles Jack. Through the Myles Jack Family Trust, they partnered with Kaufmann to partly own the Icemen and now the Ghost Pirates.
“First of all, Savannah is a wonderful and great place for hockey,” said La Sonjia Jack, a Cox Communications executive residing in Jacksonville. “This is an opportunity for the community to come together as well as our young people, to introduce them to hockey. I am originally from the East Coast so I grew up playing hockey and the rinks. It is a wonderful opportunity not only for residents but also for young people to participate in ice hockey and learn something new. “
Construction of a second facility in town – for professional team training, public skating, youth and adult hockey leagues, and figure skating – is years away. The ECHL season is a year away, but around 1,500 season tickets have already been sold, Kaufmann said.
“This is a fantastic indication as we haven’t even announced the team (name) yet,” he said. “We are excited. It’s a strong and solid start. We expect to see sold-out sales at full capacity (7,300 for hockey) and watch this rock arena arrive next October. It will be special.
Nathan Dominitz is the sports content editor for Savannah Morning News and savannahnow.com. Email him at [email protected] Twitter: @NathanDominitz