Greenville Swamp Rabbits Engaging the Community

As an AA team in the East Coast Hockey League, the primary objective of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits is to win games and entertain hockey fans. As an Upstate organization, however, community outreach is another important objective.

From literacy to fitness, with special themed game nights as well as visits to schools, the Swamp Rabbits organization works with a variety of organizations  to engage hockey fans beyond entertaining them in the rink.

This Friday night’s game against the Atlanta Gladiators (January 20) is nonprofit night, giving area nonprofits an audience they might not normally have access to. Swamp Rabbits chief marketing officer Megan Dotson says that during the second half of the season, when football is winding down and baseball hasn’t started up, attendance picks up, with an average of 3,600 people coming out to watch hockey.

“There are a lot of nonprofits in the area,” Dotson says, “and Greenville is very philanthropic.” The nonprofit night will allow the nonprofits to exhibit on the concourse, raising awareness about who they are and what they do and making contacts for fundraising and volunteering efforts. Additionally, each participating nonprofit has a link on its website to sell tickets to the game, and for each ticket sold through that special link, $5 will go back to the nonprofit.

Other special game nights throughout the season include a Teddy Bear Toss in December, where fans bring a stuffed animal to toss onto the ice after the Swamp Rabbits’ first goal, and the stuffed animals are collected and donated to Toys for Tots. Following the nonprofit night will be Scout Night (February 11)—the Swamp Rabbits’ most attended night of the year—where scout groups and their families can purchase discounted tickets, and scouts earn a special hockey-themed patch; Craft Beer Night (March 31), where fans 21 and older can enjoy a pre-game event with beer tastings from local breweries; and Fan Appreciation Night (April 7), starting with a pre-game fan-fest on Clemson Plaza and prize giveaways throughout the game.

Through a program working with 80 local schools in the Upstate, elementary school students can earn tickets by reading each fall—when a student reads three age-appropriate books (a “hat trick”), he or she gets a free hockey ticket for Scholar Book Club Night, which includes a post-game skate, and participating teachers get tickets as well. The three schools with the most participation are rewarded with a special school visit from players and the Swamp Rabbits mascot.

Face Off for Fitness brings hockey directly to Upstate schools, with a portable, inflatable rink that the Swamp Rabbits players use to introduce students to the sport. In addition to teaching kids the basics of shooting and how to handle a stick, the team’s athletic trainer shows them how to stretch properly and assistant coach Troy Schwab teaches them about a healthy lifestyle of diet and exercise.

For high school students, special career days give an insider’s look at the jobs of people who run the organization as well as arena staff—a fantastic learning opportunity for students interested in marketing, sports management, business, or communications. Students hear team staff speak about their careers, but the day is not just sitting passively, listening to speeches—they also get to go to work alongside support staff performing game day tasks and sit in on an operations meeting.

For information about participating in any of the school programs, contact James Kalinowski or call him at 864-250-4803.

Photos courtesy of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits.

Sharon Purvis is a freelance writer and editor who makes her home with her husband in Duncan, South Carolina. You can find more of her work at