No talk on rumoured WHL arena: reeve
THE suggestion that a 5,000-seat arena will be built on the southwestern edge of Winnipeg to house a Western Hockey League (WHL) team is news to the reeve of the RM of Macdonald.
Reeve Brad Erb, who was recently reelected, told the Free Press this week he has not been approached by representatives of the WHL’s Kootenay Ice for approval to build an arena adjacent to the Rink Hockey Academy (RHA) on the west end of South Landing and just off McGillivray Boulevard.
A new facility for the RHA, which is currently under construction, lies within the municipality’s boundries.
“I’ve not officially had any introduction or conversation with anyone regarding a Western Hockey League team,” Erb said. “I’m more curious than anything about some of the rumours that are out there and whether there’s any truth to them or not. That’s kinda where we stand.
“I’m curious — if the timelines are what they are — it seems interesting that we haven’t had a conversation.”
The Free Press reported last month the club’s majority owner Greg Fettes, a Winnipeg-based entrepreneur, is planning to move the team from Cranbrook, B.C., to the provincial capital in time for the 2019-20 season.
He and partner Matt Cockell bought the franchise in the spring of 2017.
Fettes and WHL commissioner Ron Robison have not commented publicly on the report.
The Ice, who have the lowest home attendance in the WHL and have been struggling at the gate in recent seasons, are believed to be considering a temporary home at the University of Manitoba’s Wayne Fleming Arena until a new facility can be built.
Gene Muller, the U of M’s director of athletics and recreation, declined comment recently on the possibility of a WHL team using his school’s facility for up to two years.
“There’s no proposal currently in front of us and I’m not suggesting there might not be next week or month,” Erb said, estimating the time for proper zoning clearances and public hearings for approval would be approximately two to three months.
Erb would not say if the municipality would be receptive to an arena project of this size.
“I would be reluctant to offer an opinion on that,” he said. “All I can say is that we’re always interested in investment opportunities in our municipality, so that would be the starting point. I have no idea what the ask would be, or if there was one. We’re kind of open to people coming to us and seeing if there’s a fit.”
Fettes declined comment for this story.