Atlanta Gladiators fan wins prize vacation, but his award has been put on ice
Blaine Byers is ready to sue the ECHL franchise for never delivering on its ‘trip of a lifetime’
ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - A loyal Atlanta Gladiators hockey fan won a first-class, all-expenses-paid vacation to Costa Rica more than two years ago.
But the Gladiators have yet to deliver Blaine Byers’ prize, and now, he’s ready to sue the team, now entering its 20th season as metro Atlanta’s longest operating professional hockey franchise as a member of the 27-team ECHL.
“It’s upsetting,” Byers said. “I love the team; I love the sport. I can’t fathom for the life of me why this is still going on.”
On Saturday, February 1, 2020 - a full month and a half before the Covid pandemic canceled the rest of the Gladiators’ season - they beat the Norfolk Admirals 7-0. Later in the game, the Gladiators held a drawing for a grand-prize vacation. Any fan who purchased a ticket was eligible for the drawing. The prize included first-class tickets on Delta Airlines, plus limousine transportation to a luxury vacation home in Costa Rica.
Byers had never won a contest before and was shocked when he was announced as the winner.
“It was one of the coolest nights of my life,” Byers said. “I kind of looked at my wife and said, ‘Oh my gosh, they just said my name!’”
The excitement didn’t last.
“Monday rolls around and nobody calls, so I called them on Tuesday, and they acted like they don’t know who I was or what was going on,” Byers said.
Days turned into weeks. Toward the end of February, a Gladiators representative emailed Byers and said he was waiting on one of the team’s partners to provide additional information. Then, on March 12, 2020, the ECHL canceled the rest of the season.
Byers never got his prize. He said team president Jerry James promised to work something out, but eventually stopped responding.
“I wouldn’t think you could advertise online and on Facebook - this huge giveaway on the busiest night of the season - without actually having the trip to give away,” Byers said.
James spoke with CBS46′s Better Call Harry in March and again in April. He blamed the pandemic, even though the drawing was more than one month before the pandemic shutdown in March.
After CBS46 began making inquiries, James provided Byers with two first-class vouchers on Delta Airlines but stopped short of providing the remainder of the trip.
Byers said the vouchers are only good until the end of 2022 and expenses for lodging and transportation are now his responsibility.
The ongoing dispute might have soured most fans, but when the Gladiators took the ice again, Byers and his family were back in the stands. But he’s not sure if he will attend any games in the upcoming season.
“I still love the sport and the team,” he said. “It doesn’t have anything to do with them; it has to do with their president making promises he has no intention of keeping.”
James was scheduled to speak with Better Call Harry right after the July 4 holiday weekend, but had to reschedule.
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