By John Denton
April 12, 2017
ORLANDO – RP Funding president/CEO Robert Palmer is one of the true success stories to come out of Lakeland, and he is confident that his strong support of the newly named Lakeland Magic will make the Development League franchise similarly successful.
The D-League’s parent squad, the Orlando Magic, revealed the team’s new nickname on Wednesday, choosing “Magic’’ as a way of broadening the NBA team’s brand throughout Central Florida, along the Interstate-4 corridor and toward Tampa’s Gulf Coast region.
Also, Palmer – a Lakeland native who has skyrocketed to fame in the Central Florida region with the success of his wide-ranging mortgage and investment companies – and companies RP Funding and HomeValue.com were named founding partners of the Lakeland Magic. RP Funding, a direct mortgage leader that underwrites, closes and funds its own loans to offer customers the best deals, will have decals at center court of the Lakeland Center, home to the D-League franchise. Additionally, RP Funding’s brand will be denoted on the Lakeland Magic’s uniforms.
Palmer, who was recognized three years ago by Orlando Business Journal as one of the most influential business leaders in Central Florida with its “40 under 40’’ honor, is hopeful that basketball fans in Lakeland will get behind the new Magic just as he has. He is a big believer in the potential of his home region and he feels the partnership with Lakeland and the Magic is a perfect fit.
“I look back at my childhood and The Lakeland Center was a big deal with a lot of great concerts and a hockey team there once upon a time, but we’ve kind of had a void where the area hasn’t had a great sports team and they’ve had a lot of failures over the last decade or decade-and-a-half,’’ said Palmer, who was honored during a first-quarter timeout of the Magic’s game against the Detroit Pistons at the Amway Center on Wednesday night. “So to have a team show up that is backed by such an amazing organization as the Magic – clearly this isn’t someone just playing around at Minor League sports – it was critical to our decision of getting involved. This is something we can put our name behind because it’s going to be here for the long haul and it will shape the future in Lakeland.’’
Magic CEO Alex Martins, who is also a minority owner in the Lakeland Magic franchise, lauded Palmer for his level of support in the franchise, which will begin play in the fall. Martins candidly said that Palmer’s strong belief and vision for Lakeland’s potential was a major factor in the NBA club picking Polk County as the home to its D-League franchise.
“Robert and his support are a launching pad, for sure, (for Lakeland),’’ Martins said. “It’s the launching pad for the success of the team. Without getting into specifics, Robert’s support and the magnitude of this deal will be one of the biggest in the D-League overall. That’s indicative of his commitment to Lakeland. It’s indicative of his commitment to this team and it’s indicative of how this is going to be a launching point (for the Lakeland Magic).
“Now, we’ve raised the bar with Robert’s support,’’ Martins continued. “As Robert says, that will bring a lot of other people behind him (to support the team).’’
Much the same way that the Magic co-founders Pat Williams and Jimmy Hewitt believed in what Orlando could become as the home of a NBA franchise some 32 years ago, Palmer is fully convinced that Lakeland can take on a more prominent role as a hub to professional sporting events and premier entertainment exhibits. Using the same sort of vision that helped him build an investment empire, Palmer wants to grow the sports and entertainment options in his hometown.
“We want everybody in the (Lakeland) community to get involved because we feel like this can be big,’’ Palmer said. “I felt like us stepping out in a big way first, it would help bring others (on board as well). We’ve got a very powerful brand on the RP Funding side along the I-4 corridor, so for us to put so much of our brand behind this, I feel it’s going to help to bring more sponsors out of the woodworks. A powerful sponsorship base is critical to the success of the team – not just our support, but the entire community’s support.
“I also think there’s a lot more to come,’’ Palmer added. “We’ve got other ideas for The Lakeland Center, the community as a whole and sports in that community. In my mind, this is a first step. How do we bring more high-profile concerts to Lakeland? How do we bring other (professional) exhibition games to Lakeland or other great events to Lakeland like the high school (basketball) state championships? So, that’s something we’re going to be more involved in – trying to make Lakeland more of a sports center of the state.’’
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