Businessman, doctor like role
By DAVID MITCHELL
The Columbus Lions announced the addition of two individuals to the team's ownership group on Thursday at a press conference at the Columbus Civic Center.
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Duke Liberatore, chief executive officer of Peachtree Natural Foods, and his wife, Jan McBarron, a medical physician and an author, have joined the team's six other owners, promising enthusiasm and commitment to making the team and gameday experience a success.
"I felt like I could bring something to the team," Liberatore said. "I could help get the word out to the community. Plus, I have some business experience that might factor into it as well. It just seemed like such a natural fit that I couldn't
turn it down."
Liberatore, who opened his first of 12 Peachtree Natural Foods stores in 1990, said that he never really had this as a dream for himself, despite being a big sports fan.
Now that he is in this position, however, he said that he wants to provide every resource he can into helping build the team, both on the field and off.
"We need to do a better job of getting the word out," he said. "The more people we get into the stands, the more we can support our community.
"I'm so pumped. I'm so charged, and I want that excitement to spread from here throughout the community and into the general population so we can get the stands full and continue to have a winning tradition."
He described himself as a high-energy type of person and said that he hopes that will be a key contribution he can provide to the ownership group.
"I want to be out there in the community, at events on behalf of the Lions, spreading the word," he said. "I think sharing what an exciting gameday experience it is will be huge."
Joining the ownership was a matter of being pursued and doing the pursuing, Liberatore said. He had an acquaintance on the ownership team who mentioned that a spot may open up. After that, Liberatore was interested.
The process didn't finish until the night before the press conference.
"We didn't finish the paperwork until 6 o'clock last night," he said with a laugh.
Lions coach Jason Gibson said that adding to the ownership is just validation of the franchise as a whole.
"(It's) credibility for our team to get somebody who is committed," he said. "It's huge for us. It's a great opportunity."
The Lions begin work for the 2013 season on Feb. 18, Gibson said. The team currently has 40 players on the roster, and Gibson is constantly trying to make improvements.
"Just got to keep knocking on doors," he said.
The Lions kick off the season on March 10 when they host the Knoxville Nighthawks at the Columbus Civic Center.
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571