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Abbotsford mayor asks public to forgive the past, support Heat hockey

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman. - JOHN MORROW
Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman.
— image credit: JOHN MORROW

Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman is calling on the public to forgive the decisions of the past and throw its support behind the Abbotsford Heat hockey club.

“When I was elected, one of the things that I campaigned on is that I would, good or bad, review the Heat contract. I would take a look at the situation and get back to the citizens and give some disclosure,” said Banman.

Having completed his review and after holding numerous discussions with team owners and president Ryan Walter, Banman said he has a better understanding of the situation.

“The first thing that I would like to do is ... say to (the citizens of Abbotsford) as their mayor, I’m sorry we’re in the place we’re at. I wish things were doing a lot better than they are. But in order for that to happen I think there needs to be some disclosure as to how we got here,” said Banman.

He said residents have to look back to when the Plan A project first began, when the public was calling Abbotsford a “no-fun city.”

The council of the day received the electorate’s permission to move the plan forward, business studies were completed and the expectation was for a successful venture, he said.

“This was one of the strongest economic times we’ve ever seen. If you were going to take a gamble, that was the time.”

But he said nobody saw the economic downturn coming.

The Plan A proposal was to build a new cultural centre (The Reach), perform a major renovation on the Abbotsford Recreation Centre and build the Abbotsford Entertainment and Sports Centre.

It was determined that a professional hockey team was also required as an anchor tenant.

Eventually, the Calgary Flames agreed to place its AHL affiliate in Abbotsford. As part of the deal, the city signed a 10-year supply fee agreement guaranteeing break-even revenue up to an annual maximum of $5.7 million.

The Abbotsford Heat has cost the city approximately $1.7 million in its first two years.

In order to reach break even, the Heat need to attract another 1,500 paid fans per game.

Banman said the public needs to put its anger towards the Heat deal aside.

“The more angry they get, the less people show up. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy of doom.”

He believes Abbotsford residents need to accept the past.

“It is a very giving city. What I would ask of the people is they need to become one of the most forgiving cities in the world ... We need to forgive people who had great intentions ...

“The biggest challenge I have as mayor is to get the citizens of this city to come to the same realization as I did – that staying angry only hurts me.”

Lane Sweeting, one of the Heat owners, said there is a misconception that investors are getting rich from the Heat and the city.

“I think people think we’re making money on this. There’s no money made by the investors until the entire $5.7 million ... is obtained, plus $200,000 profit for the city. After that happens, after the revenue is generated to $5.9 million,then the investors get 60 per cent of the next dollar,” he explained.

The city and the Heat have an option to review their 10-year deal at the halfway point. While that is still two years away, both sides indicated it may need some minor “tweaking” but at this time, no major changes ae expected.

 

Charities can cash in

 

The Abbotsford Heat hockey team is offering fundraising opportunities to non-profit organizations.

Groups obtain tickets for Heat games, sell them to members, friends or family members and keep 50 per cent of those sales for its charitable cause.

“We are opening up what we are already doing with minor hockey and expanding it to not-for-profits,” explained team president Ryan Walter.

The idea was initiated by Mayor Banman.

Charities can also acquire larger flex packs (15 tickets). Because they are easier to sell than individual tickets, the charity is given 30 per cent of the ticket price.

For information contact Justin McIntyre at 604-743-5056 or jmcintyre@abbotsfordheat.com.

A third program, the President’s Club, will begin next season. It will allow businesses to promote their brand and support local initiatives. Only 28 corporate packages will be sold, each consisting of 1,000 tickets to one Heat game. The games will be co-branded with the company name and the charity of choice. Other perks include a president’s social and other special advertising bonuses.

Call Ryan Walter at 604-743-5060 for details.

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