Nfld. & Labrador

10-year lease deal reached between City of St. John's, Growlers and Edge

The City of St. John's, Newfoundland Growlers and St. John's Edge have announced they've come to a 10-year lease agreement in principle to use Mile One Centre.

City says its subsidy to Mile One Centre will increase under new deal

Newfoundland Growlers owner Dean MacDonald says the team is happy to stay in St. John's. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

The City of St. John's has reached a 10-year lease agreement in principle with the Newfoundland Growlers hockey team and St. John's Edge basketball team to use Mile One Centre.

The 10-year deal between St. John's Sports and Entertainment and the two professional sports teams was announced Wednesday afternoon.

"That culminates a long negotiation process in which we worked very hard," Mayor Danny Breen said Wednesday afternoon. 

"The details are still being worked out.… It's an agreement in principle right now," he added, saying it took a long time because there are a lot of people at the table and they wanted to get it right. 

Under the new agreement, the city said the subsidy it provides Mile One Centre will go up by $440,000 in the first year, $250,000 in the second and $200,000 for the remaining eight years. 

In 2019, the total operating grant from the city to SJSE was $2.9 million, $1.96 million of which was for Mile One Centre. With the new deal, the total subsidy to Mile One will be an extra $2.29 million over 10 years, an average of an $229,000 per year. 

However, the city noted SJSE can earn revenue through concession sales from the games guaranteed through the deal. 

Newfoundland Carl English has been an integral part of the St. John's Edge team. (Courtesy St. John's Edge)

Previous agreements with sports teams had been capped at five-year terms, so Growlers owner Dean MacDonald said this historic deal is the longest in the province's history. 

"We hope the playoffs this year won't be as tough as these negotiations," MacDonald said. "I couldn't be more delighted."

"We take great pride in making sure that our fans are treated to a world-class atmosphere, and Mile One Centre is critical to that experience, we are now in a position to put together another exhilarating season of Edge basketball," Edge co-owner Irwin Simon said in a press release. 

Both MacDonald and Simon said the teams can start building a "brand" now, knowing they will be in the city for a decade. 

SJSE retains management 

Under the terms of the deal, the ECHL hockey team and National Basketball League teams will lease Mile One Centre through the 2029-30 season, and St. John's Sports and Entertainment will continue to manage it along with the St. John's Convention Centre. 

The ownership group for the two teams had been looking for a third-party management arrangement for future seasons, instead of a lease agreement, but SJSE refused their proposal. 

The Newfoundland Growlers and St. John's Edge ownership groups have reached an agreement in principle to lease Mile One Centre from the City of St. John's. (Jen White/CBC)

MacDonald told reporters Wednesday afternoon that he commissioned a study to look at the economic impact the professional sports teams have on the city, and it's about $15 million. 

"It's recognized by everyone here there is a contribution by the teams," he said. 

Concern Growlers would leave

Lease negotiations have been ongoing since the Growlers hoisted the ECHL's Kelly Cup last spring — one of few teams in league history to win the championship in their inaugural season. 

At one point during negotiations, speculation that the team would be moved to Trois-Rivières, Que., reared its head after club owner Dean MacDonald took a tour of a new rink being built in the city, while voicing his dissatisfaction in dealing with the City of St. John's. 

In August, MacDonald said the team was exploring alternatives to Mile One.

Team owner Dean MacDonald congratulates Zach O'Brien after the team won the Eastern Conference finals. (jpphotographynl.com)

Things almost boiled over last week when MacDonald announced a news conference to address the future of the team within Newfoundland — prompting speculation that he would be announcing the team would be moving — and the city quickly said it would be making its own announcement surrounding the club. 

But hours later both sides backed down, and talks have been continuing since then.

In the press release, the Growlers said this agreement came after "a successful weeklong visit from the Toronto Maple Leafs," the NHL affiliate for the Growlers, who visited the province for training camp at the Paradise Double Ice Complex and a preseason game against the Ottawa Senators at Mile One. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Meg Roberts

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