MAITLAND, Fla. – Throughout its inaugural ECHL season, the Orlando Solar Bears played its home games in a building that was quite likely the best in the league. In January of 2015, the entire league will get to judge for itself if the boasts were correct.
Wednesday afternoon, the ECHL announced that the Solar Bears would play host to the 2015 ECHL All Star Game. The game will be played on January 21, 2015 at the Amway Center in downtown Orlando. The three-day event will also include a skills competition as well as the induction ceremony for the eighth class to be enshrined in the ECHL Hall of Fame.
“We all know the city of Orlando is a great winter destination,” ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna said in making the announcement. “Couple that with a world-class arena and the strong following the Solar Bears have developed and we have a perfect location for our 2015 All-Star Classic. We are pleased to bring our flagship event to Orlando in January 2015.”
The announcement came after a bid process was held at the league’s annual meeting. The Solar Bears’ bid was worked on by the team with help from the city of Orlando and Visit Orlando, the city’s tourism bureau, among others. Visit Orlando will be the presenting sponsor of the game. It will be the third time that the ECHL has brought its all stars to Florida, having played the contest in Tallahassee in 1996 and Estero in 2003.
“We would not have secured this great win for our community without the leadership support exhibited by the City of Orlando and Visit Orlando,” Solar Bears C.E.O. and Managing Partner Jason Siegel said. “On behalf of our ownership team, staff, season ticket holders, sponsors and fans, we especially want to thank the ECHL Board of Governors for their vote of confidence in our ability to host one of the league’s signature events.”
Winning the bid was as much a tribute to the Amway Center as it was the performance of the team. Opened in the fall of 2010, the Amway Center was built to house the NBA’s Orlando Magic, the AFL’s Orlando Predators, concerts, special events and more. Its state-of-the-art, environmental-friendly design has won acclaim from fans and experts alike. In 2012, Street and Smith’s Sports Business Journal named it “Sports Facility of the Year”, an honor given to the building deemed the best in the United States.
The Solar Bears franchise itself proved that it had plenty of support. Following a ten-year hiatus, the team returned to large, raucous crowds at the Amway Center. The average attendance was 6,668 per game with seven crowds over 8,500 during the year including a sellout of 9,555 on opening night.
The ECHL All-Star Game will be the second all-star event to be held at the Amway. In 2012, the NBA brought its biggest and brightest stars to the City Beautiful. That game brought with it thousands of fans, valuable national exposure and millions of dollars in economic impact. Over the years, the ECHL classic has pumped millions into local economies and provided national exposure via broadcast on the NHL Network, XM Satellite Radio and on regional cable networks in league cities.
“The selection of Orlando to host the 2015 ECHL All-Star Game is another testament to our community’s ability to host top-tier sporting events,” Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer said. “The ECHL All-Star Game will further showcase our hometown hockey team, the Orlando Solar Bears, and a fan experience like no other at our state-of-the-art Amway Center.”
Visit Orlando President and C.E.O. George Aguel agreed that hosting the game and its other events will be a boon to both tourism and the local economy.
“We are delighted to be the presenting sponsor of the 2015 ECHL All-Star Game,” Aguel said. “We look forward to continuing to partner with the Solar Bears, the City of Orlando and the Amway Center team to enhance the fan experience and maximize visitation for the game while leveraging the week’s events to heighten exposure for our destination.”
A press conference will be held in Orlando in the near future to unveil the All-Star Week schedule of events and festivities and to formally introduce the Organizing Committee, the All-Star Game presenting sponsor Visit Orlando and supporters including the City of Orlando, Amway Center, the Downtown Development Board, the Central Florida Sports Commission, and Levy Restaurants.
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