Robert Irving, the owner of the Moncton Wildcats, said the future is uncertain for his QMJHL team because the City of Moncton is asking for more money in a lease agreement. ((CBC))

Fresh off a berth into the Memorial Cup, the Moncton Wildcats are locked in a contract dispute with the city of Moncton over access to the aging coliseum.

Robert Irving, the owner of the Moncton Wildcats, said he's having trouble negotiating a lease deal with city for the 40-year-old Moncton Coliseum. He said the city wants to squeeze more money out of the popular Quebec Major Junior Hockey League team

"I think getting this contract resolved is really the main issue," Irving said.

"We're a tenant, we're here, we've been over a year without an agreement now."

Irving has owned the team for the last 14 years but he said he's unsure of the team's future in light of the contract dispute.

The Wildcats galvanized the city behind the hockey team this spring during the QMJHL playoffs as they emerged as league champions.

Access problems


The Moncton Wildcats huddle during a time out during the Memorial Cup in Brandon, Man. The team is embroiled in a contract dispute with the City of Moncton. ((Courtesy of Rogers Sportsnet))

During the playoff run, especially in the final round versus their provincial rival Saint John Sea Dogs, the Wildcats had to play later in the evenings or they couldn't get ice time in the coliseum when they needed because of trade shows being held in the facility.

Heading into the championship round, there was a concern that some of the Moncton playoff games would have to be moved to Halifax because of scheduling conflicts with the coliseum.

The Wildcats were able to play all of their games in their home rink, but they were forced to play on consecutive nights.

And they were given less than two days before leaving for the Memorial Cup in Brandon, Man., compared to other teams that had more than a week off before the Canadian Hockey League championship tournament.

The Wildcats lost their three games in the Memorial Cup.

Irving said there are too many problems with the coliseum to justify the city's demands for more money out of the Wildcats.

'The coliseum is a business for the city of Moncton that the taxpayers of the city of Moncton fund and we have to have an appropriate business arrangement as well.'

— Ian Fowler, city negotiator

"We just want to have a new contract because right now we don't have a contract. We just want to roll over the same contract we have had in the past," Irving said.

"We're saying that we haven't seen the changes to the facility, or the challenges that we faced in terms of ice time which has cost us extra."

The city is asking the Wildcats to either hand over additional fees or the city may claw back some of the revenue that the team now takes in, according to Irving.

Ian Fowler, the city's negotiator, said the city values the Wildcats but they are looking for an arena deal similar to the contracts other cities have with QMJHL teams in Halifax or Saint John.

"Mr. Irving talks about this being about business and his hockey team being about business," Folwer said.

"The coliseum is a business for the city of Moncton that the taxpayers of the city of Moncton fund and we have to have an appropriate business arrangement as well."

New offer coming

Fowler said various offers have been made and a new one will be made next week.

Meanwhile, Irving said he wants a deal within two weeks.

The city has been weighing the future of the coliseum in the last year, after both a consultant and a separate task force urged the city to build a new $80-million downtown sports and entertainment complex.

The alternative is having the city invest $40 million into repairing the aging 6,500-seat coliseum.

When James Lockyer released his task force report he said the city-owned coliseum has never made money. Instead, he said, the building has cost taxpayers $1 million every year.