Winnipeg businesses hopeful return of AHL good for downtown
Having Jets' farm team play out of MTS Centre could pose scheduling challenges, True North says
Many questions are on the minds of Winnipeg hockey fans after True North Sports and Entertainment announced Thursday it is bringing the Jets American Hockey League farm team back to Winnipeg.
What will the team be called? How will two pro hockey teams share the same arena? More to the point: is Winnipeg a big enough market to support both teams, and if it is, what impact will the team have on the local economy?
When the NHL returned to Winnipeg following a 15-year-absence, many local businesses, especially in the downtown area, experienced a boost in revenues that continues to this day.
Good for downtown?
Just blocks away from the MTS Centre, management at the The Pint Public House said business doubles on nights where the Jets are playing on home ice. They hope that trend extends to nights when the AHL team is playing, too.
“It’s cuckoo bananas in here all the time, right from three hours prior to all night long,” said Melissa Ross, assistant manager at The Pint. “It really ups the enthusiasm that runs in the downtown area
True North originally sent its AHL affiliate to Newfoundland and Labrador after it brought the Jets back in 2011.
“It’s fantastic news for the city off Winnipeg,” said Loren Remillard, executive vice president of the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce. Remillard said the AHL's return will enhance ongoing revitalization projects downtown.
“We're seeing more and more people looking at Winnipeg as a place they want to be doing business,” said Remillard.
A tale of 2 teams
True North Executive Kevin Donnelly said he's not worried about two teams competing for the same dollar. Between the Jets and the AHL team, Donnelly said there will be about 80 home games at the MTS Centre next season.
Winnipeg will be the first city to house to pro hockey teams in a single arena, and Donnelly admitted that is going to pose scheduling challenges in terms of fitting in concert dates and other events.
However, there are North American venues that manage the challenge of having more than one pro sport team in one complex, so Donnelly is hopeful True North can strike a balance along the same lines.
“[We’ll] dialogue closely with the promoters and producers who bring these tours through so they know what the challenges are, but they know we're still in that business, we're still interested in hosting — whether it’s Disney on Ice or the latest pop star,” said Donnelly.
When pressed for hints, Donnelly remained coy about what the new team will be called.
The Jets’ AHL affiliate will be back in time for the 2015-2016 season.