The Dick Pope Legacy Hall of Fame Luncheon was hosted by the Grand Tour Foundation on November 13th, 2015 at the Wyndham Resort International Drive in Orlando, FL. This luncheon brought tourism industry professionals together to celebrate tourism leadership and honor three 2015 Dick Pope Legacy Award winners: Phil Rawlins, founder and president of Orlando City Soccer, David Siegel, president and CEO of Westgate Resorts, and Chuck Whittall, president of Unicorp National Developments. These winners were each unanimous first ballot choices of the selection committee.
The luncheon began with a private VIP meet and greet followed by a welcome toast by McNeilly Communications. Shortly after, the networking reception opened and industry professionals showcased their exhibit booths as guests arrived to network while enjoying hor d’oeuvres and light champagne.
Mango’s Tropical Café dancers made a grand entrance, blaring their trumpets and drums as they danced to the sultry sounds of the Caribbean. Dressed in Carnival parade costumes, the dancers proceeded to the stage in the ballroom where lunch was set to take place and put on a fantastic show for attendees before the award ceremony began.
The Grand Tour Gala Foundation presented the 2015 Dick Pope Awards thereafter. Richard Downing Pope, Sr. better known as Dick Pope, was the founder of Cypress Gardens in Winter Haven, Florida. He is also known as “Mr. Florida”. Pope played a momentous role in the development of tourism in the state of Florida and the growth of theme parks. Thus, the Dick Pope Legacy Awards were created to recognize leaders that have strengthened the sustainability of Florida’s hospitality and tourism industries. Every year the Dick Pope Legacy Awards are given to honorees in the areas of Lodging, Foodservices, Travel, Meetings, Conventions, Entertainment, and Attractions within the state of Florida. Additionally, honorees are added to the Dick Pope mural at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL.
“We are so delighted to have honored these three tourism trailblazers for their contributions. We had a packed house with tremendous industry and civic support, it was a perfect platform to launch our new Foodstock event coming in 2016; and we’re already planning next November’s Legends luncheon!” said Dr. Mary Jo Ross, Executive Producer and Board Chairman of the Grand Tour Gala Foundation.
Phil Rawlins is Founder and President of Orlando City SC, responsible for all aspects of the Club’s operation, performance and service. A native of Stoke-on-Trent, UK, Rawlins founded and developed OnTarget, a highly successful sales and marketing consultancy which worked with most of the world’s leading technology companies. In addition to his tech experience, Rawlins spent over fifteen years in sports management as an owner and director of his hometown English Premier League team, Stoke City FC.
Rawlins was voted Orlando’s Downtowner of the Year in 2013 for his work in helping develop downtown and he was honored by MBA Orlando as Community Champion. In 2014 he was also voted CEO of the Year by Orlando Business Journal and Entrepreneur of the Year by I-4 Business magazine. Rawlins was recently inducted into the United Soccer League’s Hall of Fame.
Phil Rawlins stated, “I am honored to receive the Dick Pope Legacy award but this recognition is shared among the entire staff at Orlando City and our incredible supporters both here in Orlando and around the world. Fans from all 50 states and over 50 countries have travelled to the City Beautiful to watch the Lions take the field at the Orlando Citrus Bowl. This award is the result of the hard work from our team, front office and many partner organizations toward a common goal – establish Orlando as the Soccer Capital of the South – and in doing so, driving the economy of Central Florida forward. We can’t wait for 2016 as there is so much more to come!”
As a pioneer in the tourism industry, David Siegel has spent the past 30 years creating the largest privately owned company in Central Florida. David’s empire includes timeshare, real estate, construction, hotel and apartment management, travel services, tele-communications, citrus, insurance, transportation, retail, and much more.Success struck David in the 1970s when he purchased a prime piece of real estate that later developed into the largest single site vacation ownership resort in the world – Westgate Vacation Villas. David has been honored as the “Entrepreneur of the Year” for construction and real estate in Central Florida and finished second in the “Entrepreneur of the Year” national competition.
Mr. Siegel started the Westgate Resort Foundation in 2001 because he feels it is important to be a responsible and conscientious corporate partner in the communities which are home to Westgate’s resorts as well as the company employees and their families. In addition to sitting on the board of many civic organizations, David was also on the committee for the 2012 Olympics. Most recently, David acquired the Orlando Predators Football franchise and purchased the Cocoa Beach Pier, in addition to his preservation of the River Ranch in Florida.
“When I moved to Florida in 1945 Dick Pope was already a legend. My family visited Cypress Gardens on several occasions, as it was the only major tourist attraction in the State. When I was in high school I had the pleasure to date a girl who was a former Cypress Gardens water skier. They were held in the same high esteem as a Miss America contestant. I paid my way through college teaching water skiing. I only used Alfredo Mendoza’s Cypress Gardens skies. When I moved to Orlando in 1970, one year prior to Disney World opening, Cypress Gardens was still the only major tourist attraction in Florida and I visited the park many times. Approximately 10 years ago, when Cypress Gardens was threatened to be turned into a condominium development, I went to Tallahassee and was successful in having the State register it in the National Register of Historic Places, so that Cypress Gardens would remain intact for future generations. So this year when I was honored with the Pope Legacy Award it meant so much to me, because of my ties to Dick Pope’s Cypress Gardens during most of my life,” said David Siegel, president and CEO of Westgate Resorts
Chuck Whittall, the President of Unicorp National Developments, has an extensive 27-year background in commercial real estate development, including commercial and residential construction. He is a visionary with a talent of picking prime real estate and developing extraordinary projects. He also holds his Florida Real Estate Broker’s license and Class A General Contractor’s license.
“It is quite an honor to be recognized among all of the previous recipients of this award. I am glad to be part of this community and helping grow the entertainment tourism business,” said Chuck Whittall President of Unicorp National Developments.
Following the awards ceremony, the three recipients posed for photos with their medals of honor around their necks. Thereafter, the luncheon concluded with a dessert reception featuring a number sweets and coffee where auction winners were announced.