November 13, 2006

What's next, construction?

Dark times have graced the political front in my little city. According to local news sources the City of Rockford and Winnebago County have decided to get into the professional sports business by purchasing a minor league hockey team.

The public agency that owns the MetroCentre wants to buy the Rockford IceHogs and reinvent the popular hockey team as a minor league franchise for the Chicago Blackhawks. The transformation would be part of a long-discussed $20 million renovation of the aging ďbig orange boxĒ in downtown Rockford.

~Rockford Register Star

The ďbig orange boxĒ they are referring to is the Rockford MetroCentre. Itís an arena that was opened in 1981. Itís currently where the Rockford IceHogs and the Rock River Raptors play. Unfortunately in the last couple of years it has started falling into a state of disrepair and really does need a renovation. The seats need repair, and the plumbing in some of the bathrooms doesnít work. The last time I was there, the restrooms by the main entrance had no working sinks. It would be nice to see them actually fix up and redesign it. Itís pretty ugly right now, and is pretty much an eyesore.


Personally I would have rather they closed it down and built a new one closer to the interstate. The MetroCentre is currently located in downtown Rockford and is hard to get to. The traffic is pretty thick going to and leaving any event. According to a local radio station 1330 AM WNTA (Yes, I was listening to talk radio) it would cost substantially more money. I canít remember exactly the figure they gave; I believe it was in the 9-figure range. Since they would probably end up having to increase taxes to pay for that, Iíll take the renovations. According to the press conference the money that the City of Rockford and the County are investing into the new MetroCentre is not going to raise local taxes any, I like it even more. Then again in March they may try to raise the taxes saying that in order to cover the costs, they need extra money. I did hear they are going to try to get a referendum passed to do an overhaul on one of the main roads that leads to the MetroCentre. So I guess I will end up having my taxes raised either way. Yea, the voters might say no, but they wonít. There isnít a tax this city doesnít like.

So what does this have to do with politics in the city? It seems the Mayor, the MetroCentre Authority, the city council and county board are adopting Chicago style politics to get this done. First they spent a year working out the details with the Chicago Blackhawks behind closed doors. The only reason we know about it now is because the local media caught wind of the story and broke it to the public. That in itself is not so bad.

Hereís the problem. Currently two local businessmen that bought and brought them to Rockford own the Ice Hogs. They have been playing at the MetroCentre for 8 years and have a decent sized fan base. The problem is that they are part of the United Hockey League. The MetroCentre wants an American Hockey League Franchise and Chicago Blackhawks affiliate. If they finalize a deal with the Blackhawks, they are going to kick out the Ice Hogs and bring in this new team that they will own.

Wait, didnít the article say they want to buy the Ice Hogs? The way that is worded is kind of misleading. They want to buy the name and logo from Dr Kris Tumilowicz ďDr. TĒ and Craig Drecktrah, the current owners of the Ice Hogs. They donít want the team

Centre Events officials said more than $500,000 a year would be saved by combining hockey and MetroCentre operations. The front office staff of the IceHogs would be retained, but players and coaches would not.
Emphasis mine

Basically the local government is squeezing these businessmen out of their own team. If they donít sell, what are they going to do? They have been leasing the MetroCentre each year for their games. If the MetroCentre kicks them out, they will have no place to play that can hold an average audience of 4,400. If they sell, they are only being offered $540,000.00. Which according to the UHL and owners is far less then what the team is worth. Plus, he will no longer have anything to do with the team. Heíd go from owner to spectator. Those are some pretty strong arm tactics. Iím afraid this may just be the beginning this kind of politics in Rockford.

Iím just glad Rockford doesnít have Home Rule. Iíd hate to see what these local politicians would do with that kind of power.

Posted by Contagion in Rants and Raves at November 13, 2006 06:51 PM | TrackBack

I hate it when they pull crap like this.

Is there any way for them to hold onto their name and other infrastructure then move the team elsewhere? (I mean so that all the city gets is their building back - but nothing else?) I know that wouldn't do fans like you any good, but I hate to think of a team like this being railroaded without recourse.

Posted by: Teresa at November 13, 2006 07:08 PM

I don't think so. They could not sell, but there isn't anyplace else local that could house the team. They could move the team anywhere they want, but I think they want to keep it in Rockford, since they live here.

And actually I'm not a fan. I don't like Hockey, I just think this is wrong.

Posted by: Contagion at November 13, 2006 07:12 PM

Typical Rockford.

I haven't regretted moving out of the city for an instant.

Posted by: Graumagus at November 14, 2006 05:47 AM

I've always heard what a great time an Ice Hog game is and really planned on getting to one this year. THIS is just wrong. And their math? Doesn't make any sense to me at all....

Posted by: Tammi at November 14, 2006 12:48 PM