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Eagles ask for rent deferral

The Canmore Eagles hockey club wants the municipality to defer its rental fees for arena ice in order for the organization to get back on its feet again.

The Canmore Eagles hockey club wants the municipality to defer its rental fees for arena ice in order for the organization to get back on its feet again.

Three years of deferring rental payments, not to exceed $150,000, will help the Alberta Junior Hockey League team rebuild its finances, according to club president Darryl Lockwood and general manager Andrew Milne.

The pair was in front of council at the end of August to make the request after a disappointing three-month fundraising effort.

“We were unsuccessful in acquiring the dollar value we wanted,” Milne said, adding part of the difficulty was the community understanding the request.

In April, the Eagles initiated a fundraising campaign for locals to provide individual loans ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 to help the Eagles eliminate current debt and recapitalize.

However, if the team failed to raise the funds, there was a possibility it may have been sold and relocated. The result was an unwillingness in the community to invest in a team that may not stay.

The team currently has a debt position of $150,000 and has seen a drastic drop in season ticket sales as well as marketing and sponsorship over the past three seasons.

The team has not paid its 2011 $45,000 bill for renting the ice surface at the Rec Centre. Milne said to defer this year and for another two will help the team keep its head above water.

If unable to pay current bills due to being in a deficit position, he said, the club will be unable to offer hockey. However, they added two offers were made for the team to move to other communities earlier this year.

Milne said despite the disappointing results on the fundraising side, the club was able to secure a positive relationship with Canmore Minor Hockey that will see the Eagles become its team name.

“We felt that is great for the community, to have one hockey logo and hockey vision to represent Canmore,” he said.

This summer also saw the team, along with the Destination Marketing Fund, make a successful bid to host the World Junior A selection camp. Milne said the event resulted in a $60,000 economic benefit to local businesses.

A key part of the 2011 business plan for the team focused on hockey as a tourism draw. With 16 teams in the league (including the Eagles) that come to play and stay in Canmore, the plan states the franchise “is good for local tourism as visiting teams, and their fans, need a place to sleep, eat, shop and have fun while visiting Canmore”.

The marketing plan includes creating a package for visiting teams with a game ticket, dinner and transportation. It also focuses on marketing hockey as a Canadian experience to tourists in Banff.

A real focus on sales and marketing for the team includes the hiring of John Ross as director. Milne said with Ross in place and increased community support garnered through his role, he feels the team will have a positive financial situation by the end of the year.

With two casinos expected in the next four-and-a-half years, he added the organization will use those funds to pay down its debt, including a maxed out $50,000 line of credit.

Looking toward the future, Milne said the Alex Kaleta arena with its 674 seats is a limiting factor for the team and for attracting additional events to the community.

“The current facility is insufficient for what we want to get to,” Milne said. “Our facility is one of the smallest in the league.”

Lockwood said a focus on season ticket sales is something that will also be undertaken. He said the team has lost touch with its season ticket holders and in fact has not kept a record of that information.

“If we can get the season ticket holders back and make it an event, they will become fans again,” Lockwood said.

Rocky Mountain Outlook

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