ECHL owner must sign in a month

The City of Abbotsford has one month to secure a local owner for a new ECHL hockey team as it strives to meet deadlines set by the U.S.-based league.

That deadline was confirmed by both parks and recreation chief Mark Taylor and city Coun. Bruce Beck yesterday, one day after they returned from the ECHL’s All Star game in Idaho.

Beck and Taylor joined one prospective Abbotsford owner, whose name has not yet been released publicly, in meeting a number of league representatives at the showpiece event.

And while Beck and Taylor said that party is still very interested in the possibility of ownership, they also pointed out the search is an “open process” and different options will be looked at.

Last week, ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna told the Abbotsford News that any Abbotsford franchise would have to be secured by June this year, to give the league enough time to market its product before the start of the 2008 season.

According to McKenna, “strong local ownership” is one of the league’s key requirements.

Taylor suggested that the city can already meet most of the demands, after residents voted in favour of a new 7,000-seat sports and entertainment facility during a November referendum. The city aims to have the $55 million centre built by September 2008.

However, he admitted the timeframe could cause a problem, which is why he said an owner must be confirmed quickly.

“We are confident we will have an owner in place but the challenge is meeting the (ECHL) deadlines,” he said.

While the city is still open to investors coming forward, there will be one major stumbling block for most Abbotsford hockey fans.

That’s because, according to Taylor, an ECHL franchise costs between $2 million and $3 million.

Taylor said the potential owner who travelled to Idaho is part of a group that would welcome more investors.

Alternatively, he said a new business person could put forward their own proposals.

Even if Abbotsford meets all the league requirements, Beck pointed out there is “no guarantee” that an ECHL franchise will be secured.

That will ultimately be down to the league, he said.

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