UPDATE: According to the Evansville IceMen Facebook page, “as of 2:30 today, the contract to move the IceMen to the City of Owensboro has been executed by the Mayor of Owensboro, the IceMen and the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau. We are thrilled to get the ball rolling to have hockey in Owensboro by the start of the 2016-17 season.”
Mayor Payne confirmed.
UPDATE: The IceMen have released the following statement Tuesday, Jan. 15:
No doubt some people are confused and a little disappointed with the announcement made today about the developments in Owensboro. We wanted to pass along a message to ensure our fans that at this time we are still fully committed to the Evansville market and would love to keep the IceMen here but we are looking at other alternatives in case a deal is not worked out with the Ford Center. The developments in Owensboro today were totally preliminary and nothing has been set in stone. Funding still needs to be found for the Sportscenter renovations as well as a complete study of the facility needs to be completed. We will keep you updated and please keep in mind that we are still committed to the end of the current season at the Ford Center. Go IceMen!
Original Post: (Tuesday, Jan 15, 4:07 p.m.)
It’s official! The IceMen are coming to Owensboro!
Mayor Ron Payne announced this afternoon that the City of Owensboro has reached an agreement with the IceMen to bring the ECHL (East Coast Hockey League) minor-league professional ice hockey team to Owensboro at the conclusion of the current season.
The announcement comes after long contract negotiations between the IceMen and the City of Evansville.
Home games for the Owensboro IceMen will be played at the Owensboro Sportscenter, which will require several improvements, including adding seats and extensive work to the floor to accommodate for the ice rink.
Mayor Payne called a special session for the City Commission, where details of the plan were discussed.
At that session, the City Commission approved the proposal to sign a contract with the IceMen.
As for the cost, Payne says, “We will actually save $165,00 per year over what we’re paying to subsidize the Sportscenter.”
IceMen will expand Sportscenter from 5,000 to 7,200 seats and from 11,000 sq ft to 16,500 sq ft.
The City will deed the Sportscenter to the IceMen for $1.
OMU has agreed to replace 53 light poles in parking lot.
“We now are going to have pro hockey in the City of Owensboro, along with professional basketball,” Payne said.
Total economic impact on Owensboro amounts to $20 million over a 10 year period.
As part of the deal, the Visitors and Convention Bureau agreed to pay $40,000 for first three years to help market and promote the IceMen.
The city turns over $250,00 the city had budgeted to replace the roof next year.
”This is a win for us, and win for them,” Payne said.
Owner, Ron Geary, commented, “I was so impressed with the neat history of the Sportscenter and I saw the potential of getting that done. We’ve brought the ECHL commissioner to approve transaction and brought in a national expert to inspect it. Plans are being looked at right now.”
Preparations to renovate the Sportscenter will start tomorrow.
For the past several years, the IceMen have had blue/white scrimmages at the Sportscenter and enjoyed great attendance. “Owensboro has a great youth hockey program, one of these days we may have a home-grown player on our hockey team. I am so impressed with effort Owensboro officials have put into this,” Geary said. “We are excited to keep the IceMen in the tri-state and we are looking forward to making this project a success.”
Existing arrangements with Kentucky Wesleyan, Kentucky Mavericks and high schools sports teams and graduations will not change for at least the five years. The basketball floor will be placed over the ice.
The IceMen have played home games at the Ford Center (Evansville) since the 2011–12 season. The team was originally a member of the International Hockey League before it merged into the Central Hockey League in 2010. The franchise has won four post-season championship titles in the UHL in 1999, 2002, 2004 and 2005.
Read more about the proposed downtown restaurant and off-track betting facility Ron Geary is also bringing to town here.
Read more about the renovations at the Sportscenter here.