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OHL Notebook: For sale in one market, possible in another

Wednesday, February 05, 2014   by: Brad Coccimiglio

The Ontario Hockey League has one team up for sale while another could be looking at a similar fate depending on arena talks in their market.

Though it has reportedly been the case for a lengthy time, news broke over the weekend  that the Sarnia Sting have officially been put up for sale.

The Ciccarelli family, which owns the team and also runs the arena the team plays out of, are in discussions with the city of Sarnia to turn management of the RBC Centre back over to the city.

Rob Ciccarelli told the Sarnia Observer that the arena alone had been losing roughly $250,000 a year and the family has reportedly contributed more than $6 million into covering operating costs at the arena since taking over operations in 2005.

Ciccarelli reportedly told the Observer last year that the Sting has lost roughly $1.4 million over a four-year span.

Sarnia city council is expecting to have a report on the ownership of the team and the operation of the arena on March 3. After that, the city will then decide on taking the arena over.

Sarnia city council’s agenda questions the viability of the arena should the Sting not find a local buyer or someone willing to keep the team in their current market.

The Feb. 3 Sarnia city council agenda is quoted as saying “If the Sarnia Sting leave our community, the potential for the RBC to close entirely is possible.”

SECOND TEAM ON THE MOVE: Belleville Bulls owner Gord Simmons is on the record as saying, if talks about upgrading the Yardmen Arena in Belleville don’t begin to progress, the possibility of moving the team could become a reality. 

Simmonds told QNet News that a change in the arena would be needed for the Bulls to stay in the city long-term following their current contract with the city that expires in 2015 though has an extension option that would run until 2017.

“We’ve been patient, but we have always said that (the Yardmen) needs to be viable. But we are getting nearer and nearer to the place that it’s not really viable,” Simmonds told QNet News. “So there needs to be a freshness that comes into that part of the equation.”

City Councillor Jack Miller, who is also the radio voice of the Bulls, was on the record as saying the city has other pressing needs.

“Other projects right now have priority. We are dealing with (the need for) a new police station; we are dealing with (construction of) a new firehall; we are looking at significant upgrades on our infrastructure. Those things have to be dealt with now,” Miller told QNet. “We are hoping that within the next couple of years that the issue of the Yardman Arena will then start coming back to the forefront once we have these things out of the way.”

The current facility is nearly 40-years-old and has limitations as far as seating and accessibility from the outside.

HUNTER HONOURED IN SUDBURY: Over the weekend, the Sudbury Wolves honoured former Wolves forward Dale Hunter.

Hunter, the current coach of the London Knights, was acquired by the Wolves from the Kitchener Rangers in 1977. After two seasons with the Wolves, Hunter spent 19 seasons in the NHL.

Hunter and his brother Mark were also honoured this week by being named London’s Sportspersons of the year.  The pair purchased the Knights in 2000 and have played a vital role in the success of the organization while also helping secure a new arena for the city in 2002.

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