By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner
The Colts could be making a significant investment in the Barrie Molson Centre, whether their 2014 Memorial Cup bid is successful or not.
Barrie councillors will consider a motion Monday that includes BMC upgrades financed by the Colts worth $930,000.
This money would pay for part of the dressing rooms expansion and all of the additional restaurant seating, additional suites and a new exterior sign.
“For the building to be almost 20 years old now, there are just some enhancements that have to be done to make it more feasible to operate out of here,” said Colts’ owner Howie Campbell. “Part of the problem we have is there are just not enough dressing rooms in the building.”
“I was very pleased that the Colts offered to make this investment in the BMC,” said Mayor Jeff Lehman.
“I believe it reflects the Colts commitment to the BMC and the (Memorial Cup) bid, and furthers our joint goal of making more revenue by attracting more events and patrons to the BMC,” the mayor added.
The city and Horsepower Sports and Entertainment (HSE), parent company of the Barrie Colts Junior Hockey Club, could enter into a financial contribution agreement. The city would receive the $930,000 from the Colts before construction started.
City support for the 2014 Cup would be to waive user charges and fees totalling $122,495. Use of the BMC would be needed for the Memorial Cup; the Colts would also get use of a city suite and the BMC lounge, as well as the south and west parking lots.
Allandale Recreation Centre would be used as a practice arena, SouthShore Centre for events and displays and the Colts would have access to all BMC signage.
The Colts won’t have an answer to their 2014 Memorial Cup bid until just before the 2013 Cup, which takes place May 17-26, in Saskatoon.
“I think our chances of getting the Memorial Cup are excellent, really probably better than they’ve ever been,” Campbell said.
“I believe these improvements will help with the Memorial Cup bid,” Lehman said, “as there are some specific facility requirements that are needed by the CHL (Canadian Hockey League) that these will help with.”
But if HSE wants to go forward with the BMC expansion, in its entirety, even if the Colts don’t win the bid, that can still happen.
“We need some more facilities for us, so I am in for some of it, yes. We still need to spend some of that money, for sure,” Campbell said. “But maybe not all, no.
“I’m just not sure the city is committed to the same thing. The Colts are, for sure.”
Lehman said the BMC improvements work with or without the Cup.
“I think most of the investments just make sense, like enclosing the patio,” he said. “Hockey season (October to April/May) is not patio season (May to September), so I think enclosing the patio to expand the restaurant’s indoor seating area is probably a good move.
“The new signage as well can help in marketing the facility, as would the relatively small number of new boxes and seats. So in the event we don’t get the Cup, yes I think most of the projects make sense given they would be funded by the Colts.”
City staff agree with HSE that the outdated marquee sign at BMC should be removed and replaced, and that the seating capacity in the BMC restaurant should be expanded. The underutilized patio area will be converted to restaurant seating for special functions.
The BMC improvements carry an estimated $1.23-million price tag, according to city staff. Along with $595,000 for the dressing rooms, the new marquee sign costs $175,000, additional suites and seats are $240,000 and enclosing the restaurant patio is $220,000. These estimates are based on pre-design work completed in December, 2012 using a design-build firm’s services.
City staff say hosting the Memorial Cup is a good investment.
Information about recent tournaments shows an estimated 2,000 people from outside the immediate region will attend. At double hotel occupancy for the 10-day tourney, at an average room cost of $104 a day, that’s more than $1 million.
And if the 2,000 people each spend $40 a day on food and beverages for 10 days, that’s another $800,000 in revenues for local businesses.
Staff estimate spending by the other 2,200 BMC hockey fans for 10 days will increase the estimated economic activity to more than $2 million for the Cup — excluding ticket sales.
The Ontario Hockey League and the Colts are expected to share $1.2 million for the Memorial Cup (based on the 2005 Kitchener model), although the actual percentage split is unknown.
Earlier this month, Lehman said city council was on-side with a new lease agreement for BMC with the Colts. Council has given final approval to an agreement in principle.
The current 20-year BMC lease between the city and Barrie Colts expires May 31, 2014.
Lehman said the BMC renovations are tied to the lease talks.
“The (HSE) offer was made in the last few weeks as part of the negotiations surrounding both the future lease and the Mem Cup bid,” he said.
Campbell said the lease negotiations have been long, but worthwhile.
“We’re looking forward to the Colts staying for another 20 years in the city of Barrie,” he said.
The Colts owner said he’s perplexed by reports the team might be moved elsewhere.
“I don’t know where that came from, because I assure you I didn’t buy this team and move to Barrie to pick it up and all of a sudden move it somewhere else,” he said. “That’s just hearsay and rumours, that’s what that was, because I have no intention of moving it out of the city of Barrie.”
During this year’s operating budget/capital plan discussions, council agreed to spend $590,000 improving the BMC’s dressing rooms — if the Colts’ 2014 Cup bid is successful, and if the city could work out a new lease, of no less than five years, with the OHL club.
Council also approved negotiating a capital recovery fee — representing at least half of the BMC capital costs — as part of the lease agreement or the Memorial Cup bid, such as adding a fee to ticket prices.
Carla Ladd, the city’s chief administrative officer, has said the new BMC user-model includes the Colts assuming additional expenses associated with their games, improved revenues through increased marketing by the city and Colts, and continuing community use of the BMC ice.
City officials have said they’re seeking a new 10-year lease, with an option for another 10 years.
The current lease’s annual value to the city is $245,000, which includes advertising, 10% of the gate or ticket revenue, revenue from food and beverages, club seats and private boxes.
The BMC’s net operating costs for 2012 are approximately $157,000 according to the city’s preliminary year-end numbers. The BMC net operating costs for 2013 are expected to be $194,000.
The $590,000 BMC project would be dressing room additions — the costs coming from design, construction, contingencies, permits, project management and information technology.
Council has already supported, in principle, a bid by the Barrie Colts Junior Hockey Club to host the Memorial Cup, the annual Canadian Hockey League (CHL) championship.
It asks city staff to prepare a facility use agreement for the 2014 Cup, and that any financial support — beyond use of the BMC — be considered by council at that time.
The Colts have submitted formal Memorial Cup bids before, most recently in 2002; Guelph was chosen that year. The Colts passed on hosting the 2008 Memorial Cup, which went to Kitchener.
The Memorial Cup was donated by the Ontario Hockey Association, in March of 1919, to honour Canadians troops who died during the First World War. Awarded annually, it involves champions from the Western, Quebec and Ontario Major Junior ‘A’ leagues, plus the host team.
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