SAVANNAH, Ga. – Standing on the dirt that will become the future home of a brand new arena, the ECHL announced it’s family is growing. At a media conference Wednesday morning, the City of Savannah and the league announced a 29th franchise will begin play in the 2022-23 season.
The team will be the first tenant of the new Savannah Arena.
Savannah Professional Hockey Team President Bob Ohrablo says he believes Savannah can become a hockey town, and believes it can happen quickly.
“All you have to do is come out and see this once and then you’re literally hooked,” Ohrablo told WTOC-TV. “We want to create that atmosphere where people just have fun and they have a good time. We know that fans are going to love this.”
The arena, managed by the Oak View Group, will hold 7.300 fans for hockey and is slated for completion in Spring 2022. The Oak View Group is currently involved in four other new arena construction projects, including the Climate Pledge Arena, home to the National Hockey League’s newest franchise, the Seattle Kraken, the UBS Arena in Belmont Park, New York, the new home of the NHL’s New York Islanders, and the Palm Springs Arena in Palm Springs, California, the home of the newest AHL franchise.
“This will serve as a gathering place, a meeting place, where people can have fun,” said Savannah Mayor Van Johnson.
The new franchise will be owned by a group led by Andy Kauffman, who also owns the Jacksonville Icemen.
“The ECHL is excited to welcome the City of Savannah as our newest member,” said ECHL Commissioner Ryan Crelin. “We have a great working relationship with Andy, his management group and we look forward to bringing ECHL hockey to the Savannah community in October 2022 and the creation of natural rivalries with the Atlanta Gladiators, South Carolina Stingrays, Greenville Swamp Rabbits, and Jacksonville Icemen.”
When the Savannah franchise joins the ECHL’s south division, they will become a natural fit in the division. Here is how the mileage will breakdown for the new franchise:
- To North Charleston, SC = 110 miles
- To Jacksonville, Fla. = 139 miles
- To Atlanta, Ga. = 249 miles
- To Greenville, SC = 257 miles
- To Orlando, Fla. = 280 miles
- To Estero, Fla. = 473 miles
- To Norfolk, Va = 481 miles
For all but two cities, the time spent traveling is less than six hours each way, which means there could be a lot of home-and-home dates and creates an atmosphere for fans to travel back and forth without spending the night in a hotel.
The new franchise will join franchises in Coralville, Iowa, and Trois-Rivieres, Quebec as expansion franchises, which were announced earlier this month.
Matthew Harding is the Editor-in-Chief for TheSinBin.net, covers the ECHL and the Wichita Thunder. Follow and interact with him on Twitter @SinBinThunder.