The Greenville Swamp Rabbits organization, an ECHL affiliate of the New York Rangers and the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack hockey operation, has been purchased by a new multi-member ownership group called South Carolina Pro Hockey LLC. The sale was completed with previous owner Fred Festa’s company Chestnut Street Sports LLC. and has been approved by the ECHL’s Board of Governors in a unanimous decision. The new ownership group also negotiated a contract extension with the Bon Secours Wellness Arena for the next three seasons.
A purchase price was not disclosed.
“On behalf of the ECHL Board of Governors, I would like to welcome the new ownership group,” ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna said, in a news release. “We are excited by their plans for the market. We would like to thank Fred for his considerable efforts on behalf of the Swamp Rabbits and the ECHL.”
In conjunction with the purchase, Steve Donner has taken over operation of the club from President and General Manager Chris Lewis and will locally control the Swamp Rabbits hockey team as president and CEO of the South Carolina based ECHL franchise.
Donner has more than 27 years of experience in professional sports. The Rochester, N.Y. native served as team owner, president and CEO of the AHL’s Rochester Americans for 13 years. He also has served as vice president of marketing and sales for the Tampa Bay Lightning during the inaugural season of the NHL franchise. Since his tenure with the Americans, Donner has been a part of multiple ventures in Florida including the start-up of the Orlando City Soccer Club, according to the release.
“There are a few key messages that we want to send out to the Greenville community,” said Donner, in the release. “First, the team is staying in Greenville. As owners, we believe in the market and are excited to have extended our lease with the arena. Second, as leader of the ownership group, I am immediately taking residence in Greenville. Being a part of the Swamp Rabbits was both a business opportunity and a quality of life opportunity for my family. We are excited to be here and become a part of the Greenville community.”