WEST KELOWNA – West Kelowna's Royal LePage Place could be home to a lucky Junior B hockey team if the Warriors are sold.
The vastly overbudget Royal LePage Place was sold to taxpayers as the City of West Kelowna's "premier 1,500 seat, multiuse facility accommodating minor hockey, adult rec hockey, figure skating, ringette and public skating.” But if the West Kelowna Warriors are sold - and it likely will be - the $14 million facility could become home ice to a Junior B team from one of the outlying communities.
Warriors owner Mark Cheyne announced this month he received an offer to buy and move the team, which, due to lack of support, has been for sale for years. The sale cannot go ahead without approval from the B.C. Hockey League, however West Kelowna parks manager Bob Kusch says inquiries started “flooding in” as soon as news of the possible sale broke.
“We still haven’t been given official notice,” he says. “But as soon as the news hit the air many people came forward saying they’d love to get their hands on that ice.”
Kusch admits the possible sale is disappointing, especially for the roughly 700 die hard fans, but says there has been plenty of interest.
“We’re just looking at options but the most positive case scenario is that it will be used by our locals but we’re also looking at maybe another team,” he says. "It would be a Junior B team, possibly from somewhere like Summerland or Peachland."
He admits it would be "a level down" from the Junior A team that failed to draw sustainable crowds.
According to Kusch the Warriors used the arena five times a week for 1.5 hour practices and another three hours for games once or twice a week depending on their schedule. That means roughly ten per cent of total ice time will be up for grabs if they leave and there has been no shortage of interested parties.
But who is worthy?
“We will be going through that list once we know (the Warriors) are leaving and there is no other possibility of another team replacing them,” he says. “Local youth organizations that are not for profit are at the top and it goes down from there.”
Royal LePage Place was built in 2007 and was expected to cost roughly $5.1 million, $3.2 million coming from local taxes. Construction mistakes and late changes however, drove that cost beyond $14 million.
Some of that money went to a new concession that is only used during Warriors games and a handful of special events and tournaments every year.
The City of West Kelowna took over the concession last fall and a temporary concessionaire was brought in for the transition period. Kusch says they were planning to ask for outside proposals this spring, but the possibility of losing their biggest draw has forced those plans on hold.
“We are in early discussions how we might deal with that,” he says. “Without the Warriors I’m not too sure what that means."
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