Icemen break the ice with bad news for Owensboro, as the team backs out of a Western Kentucky move that could have brought professional hockey to the Sportscenter.
But the aging arena was a deal breaker for team owner Ron Geary, who pulled the plug in a letter to the city Friday morning; the deadline for a decision to buy the arena.
“The Icemen will not purchase the Owensboro Sportscenter as we once desired,” said Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne, reading from Geary’s letter.
Payne was admittedly disappointed, but looked at it from a business perspective. He says the city is always trying to land new companies and attractions, and that won’t change.
It’s taken nearly a year to come to this – but did it ever need to? A source tells Eyewitness News the Icemen sold most of its gear and equipment to the Evansville Thunderbolts months ago. Which begs the question, why did it take so long, for this decision?
The Thunderbolts are an SPHL team filling the void in Ford Center.
Phone calls to Ron Geary were not answered Friday.
Despite missing out on the team, Owensboro is moving forward. Spectra will take over managing the arena, since the Icemen deal is done.
Dean Dennis is the General Manager, and also oversees the Owensboro Convention Center. “We need some sort of backup plan, if this doesn’t come to fruition,” he says of the days leading up to Friday’s deadline.
The Icemen’s move to Owensboro hinged on securing home ice. The city said it wasn’t building a new arena, so Geary was tasked with spending $8 million to bring the Sportscenter up to speed, add seats and ice equipment.
Now that plan is kaput.
But the city and Spectra are throwing in $160,000 to improve concessions and restrooms. “We wont have the money [Geary] has … for major renovations,” Dennis says.
City leaders say the Sportscenter’s bones are solid, and games will carry on with Kentucky Wesleyan, Owensboro Mavericks, and local high school games.
But the reality is – a team that never was is moving away, stings for some.
“I was hoping they would make the move,” says Bill Onorato, who lives near the Sportscenter, “but I guess it wasn’t looking good.”
Geary also said in his letter, plans for an off-track betting facility and restaurant on Owensboro’s riverfront are done.
He went on to compliment the city for its “professionalism, creativity, and wonderful efforts” to bring the Icemen to Owensboro.
The big question now is what happens to the Icemen franchise. It’s possible the team could be sold or dissolved.
We’ll watch for developments.