The Hamilton Bulldogs seem certain to stay in the city now that the board of the Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Inc. (HECFI) has agreed to sign a new lease.
The Bulldogs have been in Hamilton for 17 years, but their current lease ends in March 2013. There have been rumours in recent months that the Ontario Hockey League Erie Otters were a possible new tenant for Copps Coliseum. Another had the Bulldogs leaving for Laval, Quebec.
The decision Thursday afternoon would seem to put the rumours to rest. The board voted for HECFI and Global Spectrum to "complete lease negotiations with Michael Andlauer and the Hamilton Bulldogs Hockey Club."
The move will ensure that a good corporate citizen stays in Hamilton, Mayor Bob Bratina said.
"Michael Andlauer presented the most stable, reliable, going-forward opportunity to achieve the goals we all have of reducing the subsidy for taxpayers and providing good hockey entertainment for Hamilton," Bratina said.
Global Spectrum will take ownership of Copps Coliseum and Hamilton Place from HECFI next year. The lease conditions have been agreed to in principle and the five-year lease should be signed in the next two weeks, said John Hertel, HECFI's chief administrative officer.
The lease is similar to previous leases, except the new one allows for Global Spectrum and the Bulldogs to share in "growth opportunities," Hertel said.
The Bulldogs are an American Hockey League affiliate to the Montreal Canadiens.
Hamilton company Carmen's Inc. will take over HECFI's other asset, the Hamilton Convention Centre, next year. The company plans to do between $500,000 and $700,000 in renovations to improve the ambience of the convention centre. The work will start as soon as possible, said co-owner PJ Mercanti.