SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – Arena League football announced the owner of its Springfield team and unveiled the new team’s name – the Ozarks Lunkers – during a press conference Wednesday.
The name refers to any large specimen, especially game fish, which made the press conference’s location – Bass Pro Shops – quite fitting.
Mark Burgess, a local Christian entrepreneur, pilot and author, has purchased the Springfield franchise and pledges it will be the most fun experience around.
The team will play four to five home games at the new Wilson Logistics Arena at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds beginning in June 2024, as previously reported by The Heartlander.
“We met several phenomenal citizens of the Ozarks, all very capable of successfully operating this team, but Mark Burgess and his group stood out as the best possible fit to ensure that the new team grows roots and serves the area for many years to come through professional football,” league Commissioner and NFL Hall of Famer Tim Brown said in a press release.
Team partner Kirk Elmquist presented the new name and mascot.
Burgess told The Heartlander over 5,000 mascot suggestions were sent in and carefully considered, but his group felt the Lunkers best represents the Ozarks and its world-class bass fishing.
Diane Buatte of Nixa originally submitted the winning name, and will receive two free season tickets to the 2024 season. Buatte also will lead the team onto the field during a game.
The team logo was designed by Ryan Foose, an established sports and business logo designer. The team’s ownership worked alongside Foose to carefully craft the Lunkers primary and secondary logos. The primary logo features a largemouth bass splashing out of the water while wearing a red football helmet with a fishing hook symbol on the side. Team colors are foliage green mixed with sky blue and a dash of lake blue.
Springfield Mayor Ken McClure says he looks forward to the city hosting yet another elite sports team, while boosting revenue. “My colleagues on the city council could not be more supportive, our city could not be more supportive. Sports tourism is important. This is a major, major part of that.”
A new student intern partnership with Missouri State University also was announced at the press conference. Students from the Entertainment Management Undergraduate Program will pitch in to help the Ozarks Lunkers, while gaining experience in the entertainment and sports industry.
“We’re gonna put together a good team,” Elmquist says. “We’re doing this for family fun, community engagement, working with programs and helping Ozarkers and the charities they have so near and dear to their heart. We’re doing it to create memories in a very cost effective way for families right here in the Ozarks. What a great summer opportunity in June and July to see four or five football games in an air-conditioned facility.”
Burgess says he’s lived in the Springfield area his entire life and believes it is the best place to live, work and play. Burgess also believes his model of arena football will prevail due to one certain characteristic.
“We’ve got good Christian values to keep us going,” he said.
To learn more about the Ozarks Lunkers and to follow the team, visit their website.