There will be no further North American Hockey League action in Dawson Creek.
Kirk Fynn, Vice-President of Hockey Operations with the Dawson Creek Rage confirmed with the Dawson Creek Daily News the team would be folding.
Fynn said he and the team’s investors met in a closed meeting Monday with City Council proposing the city fund further Rage expenses.
When the city denied their request the immediate choice for the investors was to pull the plug on the team.
The details of the proceedings could not be released, including the asking price of the team’s proposal, but Fynn explained that the team needed help covering some incurred costs.
“We wanted a break in some of those areas that would help us have additional income to offset those expenses,” said Fynn, explaining that the team could not cover the extra costs incurred from ticket fees, corporate sales, as well as renting the EnCana Events Centre to the tune of $3250 a game night.
He said the team was having difficulty sustaining itself primarily as a result of the NAHL being an expensive league to operate within.
Mayor Mike Bernier could not speak further on the details of the meeting, but he did confirm that council has reached a decision to no longer subsidize the Rage.
“Council voted to not assist financially into season three or any further with the
Dawson Creek Rage,” said Bernier. This follows the council’s previous decision to not subsidize them beyond the money it had already agreed to give the team.
The City has helped finance the team in the past, spending upwards of $835,000, but has now drawn the line – leaving the Rage Society to fit any further bills.
“Monday in the closed meeting, council had the discussion and reiterated the fact that they [Rage] would not be receiving any assistance from council or from the city,” said Bernier.
He made it clear that the City had originally committed to supporting the team over three years, but because the City had to give an advance to help with two seasons as well as additional funding, council had to decide to no longer subsidize the club.
“From a council perspective we just said we couldn’t continue to contribute to the team.”
Fynn criticized the City for not providing further funding, meanwhile subsidizing other facets of Dawson Creek.
“The City figured the group [Rage Society] should keep putting money in, but to me that didn’t make sense because the city kept taking revenue from us, and the ownership group wasn’t going to do that,” said Fynn.
He explained that the group’s investor did not want to spend anymore of their money, estimating that the team would need $300,000 to $400,000 more to finance the team.
With the loss of the team the EnCana Events Centre now loses its primary anchor tenant, which will undoubtedly come at a cost to the city.
But Bernier said that Council will not continue to subsidize a team, or any tenant for that matter, if they have to provide continual support without seeing an expected return.
“That’s the whole purpose of trying to have an anchor tenant. We get a percentage of the ticket sales, a percentage of the concession, they [Rage] rent the facility of every time theirs a game,” said Bernier.
“That’s what helps the taxpayers and the facility, and we [the City] make money,” described Bernier.
He explained that the team wasn’t generating enough revenue to cover it’s own expenses.
Mayor Bernier said he was disappointed to see it come down to this as the team important to the community, the facility, and the ownership group that volunteered their own money into trying to help the community.
He noted that those investors haven’t been given nearly the credit they deserve.
“At no time was this a business for anyone to make money. These gentleman have spent their own personal money to have something for the community, at no time were they expecting to have it returned to them,” said Bernier. The Rage Society was not allowed to make a profit from any generated revenues.
Bernier also remarked that having lost it’s anchor tenant, the City will have to look at bringing other events. He hopes that something will materialize where Junior hockey can continue at EnCana, with consideration of the BC Hockey League or Alberta Junior Hockey League.
“We knew it [NAHL] was going to be expensive, we thought we would be able to make it work, and so did the ownership but it was one of those things that at this point in this league it’s going to ever not be subsidized. There was no end in sight of when we were going to be able to stop subsidizing.”
When asked if the City would be paid back the funding it provided, Bernier explained that that would depend on the sale of the team.
Fynn did say the owners would be looking to sell its franchise rights, but said it would be difficult as there are a lot more sellers than buyers in the NAHL at this time.
According to EnCana’s management company Global Spectrum, it is too early to judge the impact of losing its primary tenant.
“From the buildings point of view the loss of an anchor tenant this is the loss of thirty events, which obviously is a gap in the schedule,” said General Manager Ryan MacIvor. “What it means for us we have to look at a new business plan in filling those gaps, those dates.”
He said the details of the contract between EnCana and the Rage still have to be finalized, and they’ll have to look at the numbers to determine what the loss of revenue might be.
“We’ve operated the facility in 2008-2009 without an anchor tenant, the business model was different,” said MacIvor. “As we move through in the coming weeks and months we have to redo the plan and maximize the events schedule within the building to provide the great entertainment the building provides to the community and region.”
MacIvor also said that at this time no jobs were at stake. The full-time staff that the company operates on now is suited for what the building needs to run events, whether it is hockey games or concerts. However, he did say the impact would likely be on the part-time event staff, such as security personnel, that are paid on an event-by-event basis.