Ice ownership Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell met with Cranbrook mayor Lee Pratt and the business community for a reception after the franchise was sold in 2017. Townsman file photo.

Ice ownership Greg Fettes and Matt Cockell met with Cranbrook mayor Lee Pratt and the business community for a reception after the franchise was sold in 2017. Townsman file photo.

Cranbrook ‘disappointed’ in Ice relocation to Winnipeg

City says it will be opening discussions with the club on lease agreement between two sides

The City of Cranbrook says it is ‘disappointed’ by the announcement that the Kootenay Ice will relocate to Winnipeg at the end of the season, according to a statement released a day after the WHL held a press conference at Western Financial Place.

The statement thanks residents and the business community for supporting the franchise over the last 20 years, but notes that Cranbrook is a ‘strong hockey town’ and will search for other ways to provide hockey excitement in the community.

READ: WHL formally announces Kooteany Ice move to Winnipeg

Sorting through a lease agreement between the Ice and the city will be one of the outstanding issues as the Ice transitions to Winnipeg in the offseason.

“There will be various business and financial details that the City will work through during the remainder of the season,” reads the statement. “The City is looking at opening discussions with the Kootenay Ice management on behalf of taxpayers. The City will take the opportunity to reflect and look forward in order to plan for the future, taking time to fully explore opportunities which will work best for the community.”

Ice majority owner Greg Fettes said ownership is still navigating lease agreement issues during Tuesday’s press conference.

“I think our intention is to treat Cranbrook fair,” Fettes said. “I think it’s very important to the league and it’s very important to us that when we leave Cranbrook we consider what it’s going to mean to this town and this building. Our intention is to live up to the promise to be fair as we exit, but those conversations are yet to be had.”

The Lease

The current lease between the Kootenay Ice and the City of Cranbrook was signed in July 2008 between former franchise owner Jeff Chynoweth and former Chief Administrative Officer Will Pearce.

The cuurent contract extends to 2023, according to the document, which was obtained through a Freedom of Information request.

The Kootenay Ice must pay an occupancy fee for each year of the term equal to two per cent of gross game receipts for each hockey season, as well as an additional fee that scales based on attendance.

For example, the fee would be $20,000 if the average paid attendance exceeds 2,600. If that attendance were to increase to 2,800, the fee also increases to $25,000. Attendance exceeding 3,000 pushes the fee to $30,000, 3,200 to $80,000 and 3,500 to $120,000.

Much has been made about the Kootenay’s financial situation during their tenure.

According to the agreement, net advertising generated at hockey games within the premises is shared 80 per cent to the Kootenay Ice and 20 per cent to the City of Cranbrook.

All occupancy fees for luxury boxes, but not including ticket revenue, is split 70 per cent to the Kootenay Ice and 30 per cent to the city.

Revenue collected from parking fees and concession sales are also 100 per cent allotted to the city, according to the agreement.

Community reacts to Kootenay Ice relocation

Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka also weighed in on the news, noting he has been a fan for 20 years. He thanked past and current players for their time providing high-calibre hockey entertainment and ambassadorship in the community.

“We can be disappointed or angry as our team packs its bags, or we can say ‘Thank You’ for 20 years of great hockey,” Shypitka said, in a statement.

He also questioned if small communities are provided enough security to take on the investment in infrastructure that it takes to house a major-junior frachise.