Moncton Wildcats owner Robert Irving is warning that his Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team and the city are still far apart in settling a lease dispute that erupted in the public this week.
Jacques Dubé, Moncton's city manager, took aim at Irving this week saying the city has subsidized the local junior hockey team by approximately $1 million in the last 12 years.
Irving said in an interview that he's surprised the city doesn't see the value of the team.
And he didn't expect the city manager's public statement about the negotiations.
"I think the city knows we're very disappointed with the response we have," Irving said.
'You have to ask yourself the question: Is it reasonable for the taxpayers of the City of Moncton ... to continue to subsidize a very, very profitable operation.' — Jacques Dubé, city manager
"We will talk to the city again but all I can say right now is we're far apart."
Irving said the city already gets $500,000 in revenue from the Wildcats for the use of the Moncton Coliseum, a 40-year-old building that is in need of repair. The team found it difficult to book playoff games last season en route to winning the QMJHL championship.
Although the team was able to play all of its games in Moncton, the games were spread out and did not start at normal times.
Irving has threatened to sell the Moncton Wildcats if a deal can't be reached.
The city said this week that it wants to curtail some of the perks that were given to the Wildcats in the existing lease arrangement. For instance, the Wildcats control all concession revenues at the coliseum even when hockey team is not playing.
"Unfortunately, the present mayor, city council and the city manager, they feel that they want to look at taking back some of those arrangements we've had in the past," Irving said.
Not backing down
The city wasn't backing down on its tough rhetoric on Thursday.
Dubé said the city loses $600 every game and that it's at the expense of Moncton residents.
"You have to ask yourself the question: Is it reasonable for the taxpayers of the City of Moncton, the people who pay the bills here at city hall, who pay for our streets and roads, to continue to subsidize a very, very profitable operation," Dubé said.
Moncton is subsidizing the team at a cost of $175,000 a year and Dubé said city politicians want that to end in the next three years.
'So … [Dubé] claims the taxpayers are subsidizing but the taxpayers are gaining.' — Anne Thibodeau, Moncton Wildcats fan
The city manager said Moncton isn't looking to reap a profit from the Wildcats out of the new lease deal.
"We're looking for an agreement that will have a revenue stream to allow the city to break even in relation to [Irving's] use of the coliseum," Dubé said.
"We're not looking to make any money. We're looking to break even."
Anne Thibodeau, a Wildcats season ticket holder and president of the QMJHL team's booster club, said she doesn't agree with the city's opinion that the team is costing taxpayers a lot of money.
"We have families that come in from P.E.I., Newfoundland, Halifax, Nova Scotia, all over, that stay in our hotels, that eat in our restaurants, that visit and do a lot of sightseeing," Thibodeau said.
"So … [Dubé] claims the taxpayers are subsidizing but the taxpayers are gaining."
She said she's getting concerned the two sides appear to still be at loggerheads over a lease arrangement with only a few months to go before the Wildcats take the ice for training camp.
"I'm starting to get nervous, normally by now this would have been resolved it's not," she said.