Thunder Rolling Into Muskegon


    MUSKEGON — Sports fans will have a new team to support in West Michigan with the 2007 debut of the Muskegon Thunder Professional Indoor Football team.

    The team, part of the Great Lakes Indoor Football League, will begin playing at the L.C. Walker Arena and Convention Center in April.

    Don Pringle, team owner and general manager, said the idea for the team came from his son, Adam Pringle, who has played football for 20 years, including time in the semi-pro leagues where he has been named All-American four times. The father and son had tossed around the idea of bringing a team to Muskegon for years, but with the current revitalization of downtown, the family thought it would be the perfect time.

    The team is actually a family partnership, with Adam Pringle as co-owner, president of football operations and co-director of player personnel, and Don Pringle’s wife, Julia, also a co-owner and director of community relations.

    The Muskegon Thunder, whose mascot is an eagle holding a lightening bolt, will have a 12-game season, with six home games between April and June. Team colors are light blue and navy.

    “I hope that it brings people downtown and I hope that they’ll find that it’s exciting to come down here and view another style of sports,” said Don Pringle.

    Josh Stein, director of media for the Canton, Ohio-based Great Lakes Indoor Football League, said the Muskegon Thunder is just one of several teams he hopes will expand the league. With six teams currently competing in the 2006 inaugural season, Stein said he expects there will be 10 to 12 on hand for kick-off in the 2007 season. Teams have averaged about 2,500 attendees at games, which Stein said he hopes to repeat in Muskegon.

    “We have great ownership here in the Pringle family,” he said.

    The league was created to give sports fans another option for indoor football, Stein said. Played on a 50-yard indoor field, the game is played seven-on-seven rather than the eight-on-eight of the Arena Football League, allowing for more action. The Great Lakes Indoor Football League is not affiliated with other leagues. Players for the Thunder, although not yet signed, are anticipated to come from colleges, semi-professional teams and even professional teams. Tryouts will begin in the fall.

    “We wanted to show that arena football can be done right,” Stein said. “We want to be family-oriented football teams.”

    With ticket prices starting at $6 each for groups, and $9 to $16 at regular prices, Stein said attending the game is affordable for families.

    Muskegon Mayor Steve Warmington said he was excited about the team and the interest in the redevelopment of downtown.

    “This is probably the first great announcement of 2006 of what is going to happen in downtown Muskegon,” he said. “This is a time that’s going to be exciting in 2007.”

    Dan Rinsema-Sybenga, manager of Muskegon Main Street, said the team will be an additional entertainment option that will increase commerce in the area.

    “Downtown Muskegon is the arts and entertainment center (in the area),” he said. “This is just going to add to the menu of things people can spend their money on.”

    Tony Lisman, owner of the Muskegon Fury hockey team and manager of the L.C. Walker Arena and Conference Center, said the team is a great addition to the arena’s schedule, which is fairly sparse for six months of the year.

    “Welcome to the family,” he said, adding that he would like to see Muskegon begin to be viewed as a “sports town” rather than a “hockey town.”

    While several area businesses such as Omni Fitness Center, Lakeshore Sports Centre, Fruitport Chiropractic Center and Health Quest Therapeutic Massage have already signed up to partner with the Muskegon Thunder, the team is still seeking more sponsors.    

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