Moncton close to signing new hockey deal with Wildcats
No indication whether city taxpayers still subsidize operation of QMJHL team
The City of Moncton says it is finalizing a new arena contract with the Moncton Wildcats, but it won’t say whether the deal will address complaints about the previous agreement, which was a money-loser for the city.
Earlier this week the city and the Irving-owned team refused to reveal any information about the team’s lease with the Moncton Coliseum.
That refusal came after the two other Quebec Major Junior Hockey League teams in New Brunswick agreed to release their contracts to CBC News following a Right to Information request to municipal officials.
Moncton signed a three-year deal with the Wildcats in 2010.
“The contract between the city and the owner has indeed expired and its renewal is close to being finalized,” city spokesperson Isabelle LeBlanc said in an e-mailed statement.
The new deal “should be completed shortly,” she added.
The 2010 agreement came after contentious negotiations. Wildcats president Robert Irving had threatened to sell the team because of scheduling conflicts with other events at the Coliseum.
At the same time, some city councillors were fed up with an earlier contract that saw the city lose $175,000 a year on the team. The previous deal had been costing the city more to host the team than it was gaining in revenue, in part because the Wildcats controlled the lucrative food concessions in the Coliseum.
The two sides eventually struck a deal in July 2010 that was supposed to see the city break even on the team by the 2012-13 season. “We’ve made tremendous improvements in the financial picture,” Mayor George LeBlanc said at the time.
Now the city won’t say whether the “tremendous improvements” happened or whether the team continues to cost the city money.
“We will not comment on the financial consequences of the now-expired contract given the private nature of the relationship between the two parties,” LeBlanc said.
That makes it impossible to know whether Moncton taxpayers continue to subsidize the Irving-owned team.
Earlier this week, CBC News reported that the Acadie-Bathurst Titan team costs the city of Bathurst about $200,000 per year. The team pays no rent at the K.C. Irving Regional Centre.
The Saint John Seadogs, meanwhile, turn over $500,000 to $700,000 per year to the Harbour Station Commission, which is co-owned by Saint John, Rothesay, Quispamsis and Grand Bay-Westfield.
The 2010 deal between Moncton and the Wildcats also required the city to pay “all legitimate costs” for rescheduling playoff games if they conflicted with other events booked at the Coliseum.
Along with the three-year deal, the city and the team also signed a memorandum of understanding in 2010 that would make the Wildcats the anchor tenant for 15 years in a proposed new events centre the city wants to build downtown.
That commitment was only valid for three years, plus a one-year extension if the centre wasn’t built by 2013.
Given the city is still trying to line up government and public-sector funding for the facility, the MOU will expire next year.
No one from the Moncton Wildcats organization responded to a call from CBC News.