The future of professional hockey in Evansville is uncertain — the Evansville Icemen’s lease at the Ford Center is almost up and the owner says the city is dragging its feet on renewing it.
December first is the deadline for the Icemen and the city to negotiate a contract.
If a lease agreement is not in place by the first, there will be no 2016-2017 season and no professional hockey in Evansville, “I brought hockey to Evansville because I thought it would be good for downtown good for development and I thought it would be fun for the community and it has been but I can’t continue to have the bad lease that was kind of stuck down my throat four years ago,” said owner Ron Geary.
The city and Evansville Icemen are still negotiating a contract with a deadline quickly approaching. The current lease agreement runs owner Ron Geary about $650-thousand a year — a number the city disputes, “Like I thought, we did not and we have not made any money, we have lost money every year, $2.4 million in total,” said Geary.
In 2009 Geary announced he was closing Ellis Park due to contract disputes– reminiscent of his current situation with the city, “It’s not economically feasible at our old lease to make it so nobody is going to come in and so what can we do to make it viable and a win-win for the city and for us.”
The city wanted three things in the new contract: simplicity, to be financially neutral and incentive to increase attendance. The Evansville Redevelopment Commission is the city entity negotiating the contract that they will present on Wednesday, “We believe it will be a contract based on what he has told us before that will be satisfactory one that he should feel that meets his needs and therefore we should have plenty of time to make sure we have an Icemen here in the 2016-2017 season,” said Randy Alsman, President of the Redevelopment Commission.
Icemen fans want their team to stay — Icemen Booster Club Vice President Dixie Halber says it’s more than hockey, “I wonder that they understand the personal stories that are involved too it’s not just a game it’s not just a team. City officials agree, “The Icemen are a wonderful tenant for the Ford Center arena we think it’s a great new sports attraction for the area and people have shown they enjoy going to the Icemen games,” said Alsman.
According to Geary The Icemen are in the top ten for attendance amongst the 28 teams in the Eastern Conference Hockey League, “It’s about the family that grows up here and there are thousands of us that come together and share our lives and time with the Icemen.”
Icemen — that will hopefully continue to call the Ford Center home, “We would love to see the Icemen in fact the contract proposal is a five year contract, so we would love to see them here,” said Alsman.
44 News will continue to follow this story and any developments from the negotiations.