The Greenville Road Warriors will have a new look in the 2015-2016 ECHL season. Instead of returning with the same branded team, the Road Warriors, the team will now be dubbed the Swamp Rabbits.
The ECHL club, which is an affiliate of the NHL’s New York Rangers, put out a press release explaining the team name.
First known as the Carolina, Knoxville and Western line, and later becoming the Greenville and Northern railroad, the intent of the railroad was to connect Greenville with the rich coal fields of Tennessee, providing the Carolinas with a direct line over the mountains and access to cheaper coal. The railroad received its nickname, the “Swamp Rabbit” by locals who would use the freight train as a means of transportation to picnic in northern Greenville County. Completion of the rail line proved to be more of a financial commitment than expected, leaving the project at a halt near the foot of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Today you can find this railroad marker located beside the “Swamp Rabbit” Pedestrian Bridge, which crosses over the Reedy River just off of South Main Street.
“After much thought and consideration, we determined that we wanted our new identity to honor a piece of Greenville’s history while also being relevant within the community today,” said Fred Festa, owner of the Swamp Rabbits. “Several factors were taken into account when deciding on what that representation would be. Ultimately, we selected the Swamp Rabbits because the name holds dear to a variety of residents, businesses, popular recreational areas and the historic landmark, the Swamp Rabbit railroad, dating back the 1920s in Greenville.”
Before moving to Greenville and becoming the Road Warriors in 2010, the team had been known as the Johnstown Chiefs since 1987.
“When I bought the team, I asked a number of people why it was the Road Warriors,” Festa said in an article on Greenville Online. “No one could tell me the significance in the alignment with the community. No one.”
“We wanted to make additional efforts to really ingrain ourselves in the fabric of the community,” Swamp Rabbits general manager Chris Lewis said of the new name. “As unique as it is, and it may make people raise their eyebrows at first, there’s no doubt that it’s inherently Greenville. It’s specific to this city, and it’s a thing that the community can own along with us.”