The City of North Bay tonight approved an agreement-in-principle designed to result in the Brampton Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League relocating to North Bay for the 2013-14 season and also approved a $12-million capital improvement budget to renovate and expand Memorial Gardens.
A 15-year lease agreement with the Battalion is contingent upon a community campaign achieving 2,000 season tickets for a minimum three-year period and subject to approval by the OHL board of governors.
“On behalf of the citizens of the City of North Bay and members of Council, I extend our thanks to Battalion owner Scott Abbott for his commitment to relocate the team to our community,” said Mayor Al McDonald.
“He’s considered by many to be the most passionate owner in all of hockey, and I have assured him that fans in North Bay will embrace the return of the OHL to a place it belongs.
“As importantly, our partnership with the Battalion enables us to transform Memorial Gardens into a facility that not only meets the standards for OHL hockey but allows us to attract various other events that in the past we weren’t able to bring to North Bay.”
Mayor McDonald said he expects to introduce committee members of the season ticket drive at a news conference Thursday.
“Since the departure of the Centennials, the community has been calling for the return of the OHL,” said councillor Dave Mendicino.
“Now is the time for the community to come out and support the relocation of the Battalion to North Bay.”
The Battalion, which started play in the OHL in 1998-99, will complete a 15-year lease agreement with Brampton’s Powerade Centre after the end of the current season. The club will seek approval from the OHL’s board of governors to relocate contingent on success of the North Bay season ticket campaign.
“I’m pleased that we’ve reached an agreement-in-principle and look forward to the support of hockey fans in North Bay,” Abbott said from Caledon, Ont.
“The city has a rich hockey history, and we hope to add to it. There’s a longstanding association with the military in the community, and it will be a goal of ours to build a Memorial Cup championship team at Memorial Gardens.”
The work on the arena is expected to increase seating capacity to at least 4,246, with an additional 140 standing-room locations creating a minimum capacity of 4,386.
Changes are to include installation of an HVAC system; a reconfigured ice surface measuring 200 by 85 feet; a Battalion dressing-room complex incorporating two levels that will house a fitness room, study area and lounge; team administrative space; video boards above centre ice; new seats, including the addition of 570 seats in the south end and 180 rinkside seats; an expanded entrance between the existing access doors and the north end; 10 suites and a media box on the west side; and a club lounge and seating on the upper level at the north end.
Renovation costs are to be funded through a number of sources, including an interest-free loan from the Battalion and a $2.50 per ticket capital reserve fee. The City has agreed to move up its $3.9-million, 10-year capital plan for the facility and seek $2 million in funding from other levels of government. The remaining funding is to be raised through capital reserve fees on other events held at Memorial Gardens.
The renovations will present various marketing opportunities, and funds raised through these initiatives will be used to offset renovation costs.
Except for utilizing the 10-year capital designated for use at Memorial Gardens, renovations to the facility will be paid by users.
Mayor McDonald said, “The return of OHL hockey is good for the City of North Bay. Being the home of the Battalion will not only contribute to the local economy, but it presents the opportunity to put North Bay in the spotlight and enhance our image.”
The rumour has been running rampant in North Bay since September and even was part of speculation that went way back to 2008 when North Bay's Ken Peroff played for the GTA based team.
Battalion president Mike Griffin is a North Bay native.
Recently the Battalion president told the media that 3 locations were potential targets for the franchise which was unable to come up with an agreement to renew their lease with the Powerade Centre in Brampton.