The vote was unanimous. On Thursday, St. John’s City Council approved in principle the lease agreement that will bring professional hockey back to the city.
The day before, former premier Danny Williams announced he had reached a tentative deal with the owners of the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose to relocate the team to St. John’s.
At that time, Williams and Ward 1 Coun. Danny Breen — who represents the city on the board of St. John’s Sports and Entertainment (SJSE) — told reporters a lease agreement for Mile One Centre had also been negotiated in principle.
While the league has to sign off on the deal, the city has now given its blessing to the lease agreement.
“We are extremely pleased that Danny Williams and his partners were able to broker this deal to bring AHL hockey back to St. John’s,” Breen told reporters.
“One of (SJSE’s) main goals over the last few years has been to attract a professional hockey team to the city and we couldn’t be more pleased that it’s finally happened.”
According to Breen, the deal will keep the city’s Mile One subsidy at the current $1.25-million level.
“We are dealing with taxpayers’ money, and we wanted to minimize the risk involved in putting taxpayers’ money into this,” he said.
St. John’s Mayor Dennis O’Keefe, who is not yet back to work full-time after having heart surgery, said he left tests at the hospital to be part of the announcement.
“Council laid down the principle for SJSE a while ago, that we would only have pro hockey ... in this city if it did not cost taxpayers any money,” added O’Keefe.
Details still have to be worked out … Continued from page A1
“We hope that in the coming years, not only will that tenant landlord relationship ripen and prosper ... but in the long run it will enable us ... to reduce the subsidy,” he said.
But O’Keefe noted the city won’t be raking in huge profits from the team as it will have no ownership stake.
“If you’re going to open yourself up to taking a larger share of the profit then you also have to open up yourself to (accepting) a larger share of the (risk),” he said. “We are not prepared to subsidize hockey with tax payers’ money.”
The mayor thinks people from all over the province will come to St. John’s for games
“One of (SJSE’s) main goals over the last few years has been to attract a professional hockey team to the city and we couldn’t be more pleased that it’s finally happened.” - Coun. Danny Breen
“It’s not only a city team, it’s a team ... that everybody in this province will be proud of,” he said.
When quizzed on the financial details of the agreement, Breen said people would have to wait.
“Once we finalize the details, we’ll be releasing them, but we won’t be doing that until the agreement is completed,” he said.
Breen said many details still have to be worked out.
But he did say the team will pay Mile One a fixed annual fee “which will not change regardless of the level of attendance.”
The team and SJSE has also reached a revenue sharing agreement on food and beverage sales at Mile One.
The term of the current agreement would be for three years, with the team having the option to extend the agreement for an additional year.
“We’re bringing in a team here that’s going to make a $10 million (annual) economic impact on the City of St. John’s,” Breen said, noting the province stands to gain a half-a-million dollars yearly in the form of tax revenue.
A number of other councillors attended the announcement, many saying they have faith in the venture because of Williams’ involvement.
Coun. Tom Hann said it was a good deal.
“My main concern always has been the (city) of St. John’s would not be investing tax payers’ dollars into a professional hockey team. With this deal we accomplished that,” he said.
Ward 4 Coun. Debbie Hanlon said she’d be lining up for her tickets.
“I think it’s going to have a great economic impact on the city, but even more I think it’s going to be great (for) our morale,” she said. “A lot of people want hockey.”
Ward 2 Coun. Frank Galgay represents the downtown area.
“It’s going to bring increased vitality and life to the downtown,” he said, noting it would be good for bars, restaurants, gift shops and hotels.
And Ward 3 Coun. Bruce Tilley was all smiles.
“Excited would be putting it lightly,” he said. “I supported the Maple Leaf team when they were here. I supported the Fog Devils. I’m a real hockey nut.”