City to sup­port U of L hockey bid

U of L bid­ding to host U Sports Men’s hockey cham­pi­onship

Lethbridge Herald - - HOMETOWN NEWS - Melissa Vil­leneuve LETHBRIDGE HER­ALD mvil­leneuve@leth­bridge­herald.com

The Univer­sity of Lethbridge Pronghorns hosted a suc­cess­ful U Sports Na­tional Rugby Cham­pi­onship in the mid­dle of a bliz­zard two weeks ago.

Now they hope to land an­other host­ing op­por­tu­nity with the U Sports Men’s Hockey Na­tional Cham­pi­onship in 2019 and 2020.

The eight-team tour­na­ment would fea­ture post­sec­ondary teams from across Canada. It would be held in March each year with more than 225 play­ers, coaches and of­fi­cials com­ing to the city for a four­day event at the En­max Cen­tre.

On Mon­day, coun­cil voted in favour of pro­vid­ing a $250,000 fi­nan­cial con­tri­bu­tion from the City’s Ma­jor Event Grant ($125,000 per year), if the bid(s) are suc­cess­ful.

“This means we can go for­ward with a very strong bid,” said Ken McInnes, the U of L’s ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of Pronghorn Ath­let­ics. “I think hav­ing this level of sup­port shows a very strong mes­sage to U Sports that this com­mu­nity is pre­pared to host this and wants the op­por­tu­nity to do that.”

The univer­sity will be bid­ding for the op­por­tu­nity against other post-sec­ondary in­sti­tu­tions. It’s the first time they have put in a bid for men’s hockey.

If suc­cess­ful, it would pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity to show­case the city once again on a na­tional stage. The Pronghorns would re­ceive an au­to­matic berth into the tour­na­ment. Host­ing a na­tional cham­pi­onship is also a “ma­jor re­cruit­ment tool” for the Pronghorns, said McInnes.

“When you go to a U Sports ath­lete who is de­cid­ing what school to go to, we’re lim­ited by what schol­ar­ships we can pro­vide, we’re lim­ited by what we can do un­der the U Sports reg­u­la­tions. But when you can say to them you can come play in a great city, you can come to a great school, and we’re go­ing to be host­ing the U Sports cham­pi­onships for two years, boy, that is a pow­er­ful re­cruit­ment mes­sage.”

Bid­ding for two years was a strate­gic move, McInnes ex­plained. U Sports could ap­prove both years, one year, or nei­ther. But hav­ing coun­cil funds com­mit­ted to­ward the cause sig­nif­i­cantly strength­ens the bid. “It’s a huge, ma­jor step for­ward for us,” said McInnes. “It sends a strong mes­sage to the bid com­mit­tee that this com­mu­nity sup­ports it, that we’re pre­pared to do it for two years.” The bids must be sub­mit­ted by Dec. 8. U Sports has com­mit­ted to mak­ing a de­ci­sion by Dec. 20, said McInnes. The U of L’s event bud­get es­ti­mates ex­penses of $589,500 per year. They ex­pect to turn a net profit of about $4,500 af­ter ticket sales, spon­sor­ship and grant con­tri­bu­tions.

Af­ter the pre­sen­ta­tion to coun­cil, Mayor Chris Spear­man ques­tioned where the sur­plus would go, if there is one. McInnes said he would like to see it go to­wards pro­grams such as Pronghorns sum­mer camps in ar­eas with less ac­cess to the univer­sity, such as the Blood Re­serve.

Spear­man said it ap­pears to be a high-pro­file event, but cau­tioned coun­cil mem­bers over how they al­lo­cate grant funds. He said there would be sev­eral more re­quests put for­ward and this ask would use 25 per cent of the funds avail­able in the Ma­jor Com­mu­nity Event Grant over the next four-year pe­riod.

Coun­cil voted all in favour with Coun­sel­lors Belinda Crow­son, Rob Miyashiro, Jeff Carl­son, Mark Camp­bell and Mayor Spear­man vot­ing.

Fol­low @Melis­saVHer­ald on Twit­ter

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