OWENSBORO, KENTUCKY — Friday afternoon, it’s housing an auction for race car parts. Other nights, it’s home to Kentucky Wesleyan basketball. Soon, the Owensboro Sports Center could also be home to the Evansville IceMen – or rather the Owensboro IceMen.
“I want to go to the games and I live in Owensboro and not having to drive, I can go right there down the street,” Owensboro resident Italo Arruda said. “It would be great.”
Icemen fans aren’t just found in Evansville. Some in Owensboro, like Arruda, have made the trek 40 miles west across the state border to take in some hockey.
“It’s a lot of fun. It’s a great environment,” Arruda said. “Some of the fans are crazy and Kentucky fans are as crazy so I mean Owensboro can be the right spot for the Icemen.
“It was good. It was a fun atmosphere,” Owensboro resident Landon Rone said. “I think it’s something Owensboro needs.”
But those dreams will need to wait. While the city of Evansville and the IceMen are still at an impasse in their negotiations, Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke said the city isn’t out of the picture just yet.
“I certainly respect the fact that Mr. Geary has the right to go out and look for another city if he so chooses,” he said.
Winnecke said he spoke with the owner of the Ft. Wayne Komets yesterday afternoon, who also sits on the executive board of the ECHL. Winnecke said the owner told him the league is encouraging IceMen owner Ron Geary to get a lease done.
“He felt like he could make some suggestions and I said, ‘That’s good, that’s gracious, but honestly I felt those suggestions should have come directly from the IceMen,'” he said.
“I mean it can be a bargaining chip, but I hope, I really hope it’s a true negotiation because for us here in Owensboro, it’d just be great,” Arruda said.
“I think they could have the fanbase,” Rone said. “I’m probably open to it because it’s something and I think they need something new, more sporting people get involved. I think it’d be very helpful.”
City officials said if the IceMen were to come to Owensboro, the Sports Center would require renovations to accomodate an ice rink. Right now, the Sports Center seats less than half the number of people that Ford Center can.
Winnecke said venuWorks, which has been tasked with looking at other teams to fill Ford Center, has reached out to at least one other league to see if any teams were interested in relocating to Evansville. He said it would probably not be another ECHL team if the IceMen go to Owensboro, because Geary has territorial rights.
The AHL confirmed to Eyewitness News that none of the teams in their league are interested in relocating at this time.