No talk on ru­moured WHL arena: reeve

Winnipeg Free Press - - SPORTS - MIKE SAWATZKY mike.sawatzky@freep­ress.mb.ca Twit­ter: @sawa14

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.

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