Local veteran lends support to the Storm

May 20, 2016 Hailey Hrynewich

Military Appreciation Night on Monday night when the Storm host the Cleveland Gladiators at 8 p.m. will be particularly special to Bill Downing, who says he is the Tampa Bay Storm’s “number one fan.” Downing, a disabled veteran and local of the area, refers to the team as his family.

If the Storm is practicing, he’s at the field watching. Downing goes to every game and not just as your everyday fan, but as a Storm gorilla suited up with Storm boxing gloves, a Storm helmet, and Storm glasses. The kids at the games love it.

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“This is my outlet,” Downing says. “This team here, if I didn’t have them, I probably wouldn’t even leave my house.”

Downing paints as a way to relieve his stress and do nice things for the team. He painted name plates for the entire team with their name, number, and a Storm logo on it. He also made a sign titled, “Champions Play Here” that the team now has in its locker room. For the game Monday night, he has made a STORM belt and statue for the MVP of the game to give as a trophy from him.

All it took was one arena game versus the Soul and he was ready to be a part of this team in every way he could. Now, the guys are like brothers to him. He loves them all.

“I’ll be here forever,” he says, while looking at his Tampa Bay Storm tattoo. “I’m a die hard, so I’m not going anywhere.”

Monday night is the Storm’s seventh Annual Seats for Service Program. The Storm will donate tickets bought to service members and their families, from MacDill Air Force Base and the local Coast Guard chapters.

“Military Appreciation Night is an incredible thing to do for our veterans,” Downing says. “I think it’s awesome that they recognize people from present and past who have served for our country.”

The Storm looks to win its first game of the season against the Cleveland Gladiators on Monday night. Bill has flown to Alaska for the weekend to watch his daughter graduate from high school, but don’t worry, he’ll be following along on ESPN3.