The DeVos family returns to the hockey world, as the Orlando Solar Bears (ECHL) are now under their control in a deal that includes another DeVos asset, the Orlando Magic (NBA).
Terms of the deal were not released, but it sounds like it was a minimal price. Six weeks ago the Solar Bears owners informed the Magic (managers of Amway Center) and the ECHL that the team would be folding. Instead of letting that happen, the DeVos family and the Magic stepped up to assume ownership of the franchise, ensuring the 35 dates generated by the Solar Bears. The team reported an average attendance of 5,498 for the 2016-2017 ECHL season — well above the league average of 4,252, but not enough to stay in business. And keeping those dates is important to the Magic: the team is planning a $200 million entertainment complex next to Amway Center.
“We are thrilled to purchase the Solar Bears, giving the team the opportunity to continue to play in Orlando,” said Orlando Magic CEO Alex Martins in a press release. “The Solar Bears’ fan base has been outstanding and we look forward to an exciting future.”
“We are excited and grateful the DeVos family has agreed to purchase the Solar Bears to continue to grow the brand and expand the growth of the sport in central Florida,” said ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna via press release. “A track record of successfully operating professional sports franchises, an in-depth knowledge of the Orlando sports environment and as creators of the original Solar Bears brand, the Orlando Magic and the DeVos family are the ideal owners for the professional hockey team.”
The DeVos family owned the old IHL Orlando Solar Bears from 1995 through 2001, when the league went under. The Solar Bears name was purchased and used by an ECHL expansion team, which began play in 2002.