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Owner, name unveiled for Springfield Arena League team

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Last edited 9:03 a.m., June 15, 2023 [Editor's note: Additional Arena League teams chosen have been added]

Two months after Springfield was named as one of the sites for a new arena football league, the ownership and name of the team were unveiled on Wednesday afternoon.

Springfield businessperson Mark Burgess is the owner of the newly formed Ozarks Lunkers. The team is part of The Arena League that's set to launch in June 2024, locally at the Wilson Logistics Arena that’s under construction at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds.

Burgess, who also operates Burgess Aircraft Management LLC, dba OzAir Charter Service, said the focus of the Ozarks Lunkers would be fun, family and football.

"This is for people who live in the Ozarks. We love football in this area," he said, noting the team would be a closer and less expensive outlet for live sports for people who travel to watch football in areas like Kansas City. "We're going to make this thing so exciting and so much fun."

Tickets start at $25 per game, with $15 discounted seats available in the arena, according to OzarksLunkers.com. Sponsorship opportunities also will be available, and Burgess said the team would partner with local charitable nonprofits. Additionally, the team would allow students at the Missouri State University College of Business to get experiential learning in sports and entertainment management, officials said.

The lunker name, referring to a large fish, was chosen after officials received nearly 5,000 entries in a name-the-team contest that started in March. The logo, designed by sports and business logo designer Ryan Foose in Florida, is a leaping largemouth bass wearing a red football helmet.

Next up for the Lunkers is the naming of a general manager, with a search beginning soon, as well as the selection of a mascot. The process for hiring a coach and installing players is expected to come after that, Burgess said.

Declining to disclose his investment in the team, Burgess joked it's "less than Jerry Jones paid for the Cowboys."

NFL Hall of Famer and NCAA Heisman Trophy winner Tim Brown is the commissioner and face of The Arena League, which announced Springfield as a finalist city earlier this year. Kansas City, Waterloo, Iowa, and Duluth, Minnesota also have been selected to have teams in the league, according to the release. Other finalist cities were Dubuque, Iowa; Little Rock, Arkansas; Oklahoma City; Rochester, Minnesota; Rockford, Illinois; and Wichita Falls, Texas.

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