The Canmore Eagles appear to have staved off a mass migration for now.
The team failed to reach their $100,000 recapitalization goal by a June 28 deadline, but have decided there is enough community support to keep the team in town for the foreseeable future.
“We’re happy with the support we’ve received to date. We haven’t reached our target number of $100,000, but we will be able to survive here for the next few years,” Eagles general manager Andrew Milne said.
The team announced three months ago they needed to raise $100,000 in loans from the community, or they would sell the team and leave. While they haven’t abandoned their plans to secure the loans, and won’t reveal how much they have raised to date, the money raised thus far gives the team enough reason to stay, Milne said.
“The loan documents to date gives us a few years, but if we keep on the path, we see this putting longevity into our team,” Milne said.
The team is about $130,000 in debt and is still trying to fix its cash flow issues.
In order to ensure the team remains financially viable, Milne said the team will also seek more season ticket sales and sponsorship deals. With the help of newly-hired marketing director John Ross, the team hopes to attract more tourists to hockey games, sell more season tickets to local hockey families and increase commercial sponsorship deals.
“Money we get now will help us 10 years from now,” Milne said.
Using the NHL Phoenix Coyotes as an example, the Eagles will become part of a larger tourist draw, Milne said. By becoming a part of package deals, Canmore can add another element to those staying in the valley.
“We can attract user groups to Canmore through hockey,” Milne said. “We can offer something no other Junior A market can.”
To increase Canmore’s appeal as a hockey market, the town is chasing a Junior A championship as well as the AJHL showcase weekend. The showcase weekend attracts 15 Junior A teams as well as 150 scouts, plus families. Such an event would be a huge boon for the local economy, Milne said.
Locally, the Eagles have entered into an agreement with Canmore Minor Hockey, strengthening ties between the two organizations. Through the deal, minor hockey players will be able to purchase a season ticket for $59, with half the cost covered by the minor hockey association. Canmore Minor Hockey teams will also adapt the Eagles name, and have access to Eagles coaches.
“We want Canmore to be known as the Eagles throughout the province,” Milne said.
In terms of sponsorship, Milne said by attracting more visitors to the game, local businesses will see the value of the Junior A team.
“We’re providing the business community with more traffic. We can attract more people to the valley. Hopefully, local businesses will see the draw and increase sponsorship,” Milne said.
The team decided it has to spend money to make money. By hiring John Ross in June, the team has an individual geared toward generating more revenue through ticket sales and sponsorship deals. He’s already had conversations with 50 local businesses about sponsorship.
The Eagles can seat 700 people in the arena, however, last season the team attracted about 100 spectators per game.
Milne said the team will also approach the Town about the future of the Canmore Rec Centre.
“We’re talking to the Town about redevelopment of the current Rec Centre. We want some space in there; retail space, office space. We think we have a great facility here.”
The Eagles have just sent out a mailout and while they’re safe for now, they want the community to know they still need support.
“If we continue the way we are now, we’ll be viable in the long term,” Milne said.