Kelowna Rockets eyeing 2025 Memorial Cup but still needs building upgrades | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kelowna Rockets eyeing 2025 Memorial Cup but still needs building upgrades

Prospera Place
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In the year since the Kelowna Rockets were blocked from trying to host junior hockey’s Memorial Cup, virtually nothing has been done to upgrade their home ice at Prospera Place.

The team was going to host the tournament in 2020 but it was cancelled because of COVID.

Its next chance to host was this year but a league audit found “significant deficiencies that needed to be upgraded for the facility to meet the Canadian Hockey League standards for hosting the Memorial Cup,” the team posted on its website last year.

“As a result, the building did not meet the minimum standards required to host the event by the Canadian Hockey League and, consequently, the Rockets could not proceed with our bid to host the 2023 Memorial Cup.”

The championship will be hosted, instead, by the Kamloops Blazers. It runs from May 26 to June 4.

Rockets General Manager Bruce Hamilton wants to try again in 2025.

“Our hope is the building can be in a position that we could certainly come forward with a bid,” Hamilton told “Our team would be through our cycle of retooling. Would we like to host? For sure we would.”

The only improvement to the 24-year-old building in the past year has been some lighting upgrades.

“I think the handrails on the stairs are going in this spring sometime,” Hamilton said. “It’s something we’ve been asking for, just for the safety of our patrons and, more importantly, for the safety of our seniors who are a large portion of our season ticket holder base. Apparently they’re going in and, I would assume, the city is paying for it but I don’t know.”

Prospera Place was built by GSL Holdings as part of a public-private partnership with the city. GSL is responsible for running, maintaining and upgrading the building until 2029 but have not been doing the upgrades needed to meet changing league standards.

Some of the deficiencies cited last year included dressing rooms, video scoreboard, dehumidification, ventilation and internet, the City of Kelowna said in an email last year.

The scoreboard and sound system are the same ones that were used when the building opened in 1999, Hamilton said.

READ MORE: Are you getting the concerts you deserve in your own home town arena?

“If we’re going to be in a position to do something by 2025, they’re going to have to get started sooner rather than later,” Hamilton said. “The building needs to be shined up.”

The team, GSL and the city couldn’t reach an agreement last year to make the improvements and, it seems, nothing has changed.

But no one is talking.

GSL did not return calls for comment this week or months ago and the city did not respond by publication time today, March 21.

Given this level of inertia, is there a future for the Rockets in Kelowna?

“We’ve still got five or six years left on our lease,” Hamilton said. “We’ll see what happens here. It would be pretty unusual for someone to be on a 30-year lease and get into the last five years and not have a plan. You can read between the words on that. I’m not threatening anything but we’re running a big business here.”

The size of the arena is fine well into the future, Hamilton said. The “bones” of the building are solid, according to a 2021 ‘Prospera Place Building Assessment’ report by Stadium Consultants International.

It does, however, outline more than $5 million in building upgrades needed over the next few years and contains a long list of suggestions for improvements to bring it into the modern era.

READ MORE: A tale of two arenas: Why Kamloops got the Memorial Cup and Kelowna didn’t

“In order for Prospera to continue to compete, it should address some of the areas where we consider it to be underperforming,” the report says. “Several factors play into a better fan experience; quality food and beverage service, increased rest room ratios, more concourse space to manoeuvre. These raise the quality level of the experience, reduce congestion and patron frustration, so therefore result in a happier customer base.”

Hamilton suggested that GSL owner Graham Lee needs to know if he’s going to be operating the arena once the term expires in 2029 before he puts more money into the building.

The Rockets have qualified for the league playoffs this year and are fighting to get into seventh place, Hamilton said, noting that's his primary focus right now. Ultimately, he would like to play in the Memorial Cup in Kamloops.

“Once our season comes to an end then, I think, you’ll see us get a little bit more involved with GSL,” Hamilton said.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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