Cipperley: 'Storm are staying in Bennington'

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BENNINGTON — It's been a whirlwind year for Bennington's own New England Football League team, the Southern Vermont Storm.

From where they sat a year ago in the midst of a 2016 season cancelled due to lack of player interest to where they sit now as the defending Maritime Conference champions, the last year has been very eventful for the local team.

Not soon after the team won the championship, rumors began flying around that the team was being sold and was being moved to Brunswick, N.Y. Storm owner Patrick Seaver and newly appointed general manager Chris Cipperley spoke out Tuesday to address the rumors.

"The Southern Vermont Storm are staying in Bennington. That's a reality. We're working on enlisting a little bit of help because we lost a few pieces, but it's very healthy," Cipperley said in a phone interview with the Banner Tuesday.

Seaver went as far as calling the rumors "bogus" in a post on the team's Facebook page.

"They were created by a group of former coaches and players who behind the scenes during the season had an agenda of their own to create a new team," Seaver said in the post. "This group of individuals took it upon themselves to invite everyone into an idea of a possible offer before anything was even discussed, let alone confirmed."

In a press release sent out Tuesday, Cipperley stated that the Storm are in the process of building a 'strong and media savvy off of the field management team,' along with an ownership group that is strong in all aspects of running a successful operation. According to Cipperley, they had their first exploratory meeting on Monday night and it's still in the infant stages.

With rumors flying around, there were many local fans of the Storm who were asking questions and hurt by the assumptions being made about the team.

"It's fair to say there was a fair amount of people that were kind of hurt by the rumors and kind of felt like we abandoned them. To that part, I apologize to the fans." Cipperley said. "Obviously there's nothing I can personally do about it because they were just rumors, but I do feel a sense of compassion for that."

"With all this misleading information about this and that, I learned how important this team is to the community," said Seaver about the community support in his post. "People have reached out. People are upset. It truly shows that the town cares about this team."

Two people who the rumors regarding the team have been centered around were former head coach Guy Changa and former GM Justin Morris, with some believing they would be taking over the team and the team would be moved to Brunswick. The only truth to that rumor, according to Seaver, is that Justin Morris was offered to take over the Storm, but decided to decline the offer.

"After the offer and discussing what options there were, we determined that the best interest of the team, players, fans and sponsors was at stake. We agreed that it would be a bad move and that the team should stay in Bennington," Seaver said.

Morris and Changa will instead be starting their own NEFL team in Brunswick. Morris will serve as the team's owner and Changa will be the head coach.

"We want to thank Guy and Justin for everything that he has done to make the Storm our area's winning team," said Cipperley in the press release. "We wish Guy and Justin well in their efforts to expand consumption of NEFL Football. And of course, I would be lying if I said that I do not relish the upcoming fierce rivalry."

"As far as Justin becoming the owner of the new team in Brunswick, I'm very happy for him. That's something he's wanted to do for quite some time and he's just following his dream," Cipperley added.

The future looks to be pretty bright for the Storm as they continue to call Bennington home.

"We have an opportunity to do some things we haven't done in the past," Cipperley said. "Fan support has really indicated to us that we can continue to do big things for the community. As long as the community is willing to support us, the sky is the limit."

Adam Aucoin can be reached at aaucoin@benningtobanner.com and followed on Twitter @AAucoin_Banner


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