IceMen Send Mixed Messages About Move to Owensboro on Facebook – UPDATE [PHOTO]
UPDATE: The Evansville Courier-Press reports that Mayor Ron Payne has announced the deal to move the IceMen to the Owensboro Sportscenter is final, and an official announcement will take place later today (Wednesday, January 20th).
Hours after a press conference that involved both Owensboro Mayor Ron Payne, and Evansville IceMen owner Ron Geary stating the team would be relocating to the Owensboro Sportcenter, the team posts a message on Facebook that seems to call that announcement into question.
The message appeared last night, and has since been removed from the team's page, however this is the internet where nothing is ever truly deleted, and one fan managed to grab a screen shot of the post before it disappeared.
Tuesday's press conference certainly gave the impression to those in attendance, and those following along through media reports, the deal was done pending approval by the ECHL. But even that seemed like a foregone conclusion after Geary stated the Commissioner of the ECHL had recently visited the Sportscenter and deemed it an "adequate facility" to host the team.
It was announced during yesterday's press conference the Sportscenter would be deeded to the team for $1.00, and would require renovations costing between four to six million dollars to expand it from its current 5,000 seats to 7,200 seats. These renovations would include outward, and upward expansion involving raising the roof of the venue. A venture the City of Owensboro agreed to spend $270,000 to do.
According to John Martin of the Evansville Courier-Press, the city also agreed to return any occupational profits and property taxes they collect on the property to the IceMen over the next 10 years, as well as replace 53 light poles in the parking lot, and spend $70,000 over the next five years to market the team ($40,000 for the first three years, and $30,000 for the following two).
On the surface, it appears the IceMen are getting everything from the City of Owensboro that the City of Evansville wasn't willing to give, and then some, making last night's Facebook comments that discussions with Owensboro were just "preliminary", and that "nothing has been set in stone" confusing.
Adding an extra layer of confusion to this whole thing are comments made by Geary during the press conference that the goal is to have the four to six million dollar renovations to the venue completed by the start of next season. The Facebook statement seems to contradict that by stating, "Funding still needs to be found for the Sportscenter renovations as well as a complete study of the facility needs to be completed." I know nothing about what it takes to renovate a building of any size, but common sense leads me to think that it will take at least a few months to complete the study and raise the necessary funds, which would leave little time to complete what I believe to be major renovations by mid-October when the ECHL season begins.
What we don't know is who posted the update on the team's Facebook page. It was obviously someone from the team, but were they told to do so by someone in upper management, or did they act on their own? Were the comments in the post directly from Ron Geary, or someone else within the organization with inside knowledge of the situation? And finally, why were they taken down?
One thing that does seem somewhat clear to me as an Evansville resident on the outside looking in is that Mayor Winnecke's announcement the City has withdrawn its latest offer to the team means the IceMen won't play at the Ford Center again once the current season is over.
With that said, we are talking about business and politics here, two things I trust about as much as I would Stevie Wonder driving me to work without getting into an accident, so I'm not completely ruling out the IceMen staying in Evansville although it feels highly unlikely at this point.
Whether or not they'll be playing in Owensboro now seems to be in question as well.