Fans or no fans, the Prince George Spruce Kings are set to start the new season on Dec. 1 as per the BCHL’s return-to-play initiative.
The one problem... their castle doors are still closed indefinitely.
On July 27, Prince George city council approved the closure of three public rinks, including the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena (RMCA), as a way to save money with COVID-19 projecting a 2021 budget shortfall of $9 million, equating to $1 million a month since the virus hit northern B.C. in March.
The Spruce Kings will be presenting a public report tomorrow night (Oct. 4) in pleading to the city to reconsider opening the RMCA three days prior to its scheduled exhibition match against Merritt on Oct. 25.
Spokesperson Kyle Anderson is set to deliver a presentation to Mayor Lyn Hall, city councillors and staff in attendance.
“If the Spruce Kings are forced out of the RMCA it is likely that the team would cease to operate this season,” he says in the presentation on the city council’s Oct. 5 agenda.
“Beyond this season, it is highly unlikely that the organization could recover financially and would be forced to cease operations permanently. Should the nearly 50-year tenure of the Spruce Kings in Prince George come to an end, there would be no chance of Junior A hockey ever returning to the City.”
As the Kings are a community-owned franchise, the first of its kind to hoist the Fred Page and Doyle Cups in 2019, they rely on a number of local financial help, including revenue from games, naming rights and sponsorships.
According to the team’s presentation, Rolling Mix Concrete Ltd. renewed a seven-year agreement to continue having its name on the building ahead of Prince George’s 49th season.
The team says if reopening the arena is waived off, it could cost $30,000 a year for those rights alone, to which $20,000 goes towards concrete provided by the company for the annual Show Home.
The renewed term came shortly after the Spruce Kings reached a seven-year lease extension with the city to continue playing in the 62-year-old ice rink a month prior to COVID-19’s first confirmed case in the north.
“During the 2019 Playoff Run, the Spruce Kings welcomed over 21,000 fans to the RMCA, an average of 1,790 and a run of 8 straight sold games,” Anderson’s presentation states, noting the team’s value of playing in the downtown core.
“Many downtown businesses, including restaurants, benefit from the Spruce Kings playing at the Rolling Mix Concrete Arena. Visiting teams staying in downtown hotels, eating at local downtown restaurants, and the many parents that visit each season also have a positive economic impact on our community with a large focus of that on the downtown. There is substantial economic activity generated by the Spruce Kings playing at the RMCA.”
To meet its current financial needs, the Kings add they’re in the middle of trying to develop more partnerships with businesses for viewable online broadcasts as that’s likely the direction the BCHL is headed this season in the era of COVID-19, combining for a value of $125,000.
On Sept. 11, the BCHL announced its back-up plan for its 2020-21 campaign, which would include government aid, sponsorship support and even an uptick in monthly player fees in order to meet the demand.
If Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry, however, approves of the league’s first proposal, that would mean a 25 per cent fan capacity in arenas like the RMCA.
Councillors are set to host a regularly scheduled meeting in city hall chambers tomorrow night at 6 p.m.
You can watch the livestream on the City of Prince George’s website.
As of this publication (Oct. 4), there are 318 test-positive COVID-19 cases in Northern Health, including 30 that are active, two deaths and no current hospitalizations.
.@SpruceKings Training Camp is underway, starting what will likely be an interesting season for the 2020-21 roster 👑 Being the era of COVID-19, players are predominantly wearing the fish-bowl mask. First exhibition game is Oct. 10 in Merritt | #CityOfPG @GoBCHL @PGMatters pic.twitter.com/o2y6zucm3g— Kyle Balzer (@KyleBalzer) October 2, 2020