Cougars, city sign six-year lease ex­ten­sion

The Prince George Citizen - - Front Page - Ted CLARKE Ci­ti­zen staff [email protected]­i­t­i­zen.ca

If fans of the Prince Ge­orge Cougars had any con­cerns they might be con­sid­er­ing a move to an­other city, Thurs­day’s an­nounce­ment that the WHL team has signed a new lease at CN Cen­tre should al­le­vi­ate those fears.

The Cougars have a new six-year arena lease agree­ment in place with the city retroac­tive to July 31, 2018 which pro­vides the city rev­enue shar­ing based on the team’s ticket sales, suite rentals, and food and bev­er­age con­ces­sions. The lease also en­sures the city will re­ceive $50,000 an­nu­ally in arena ad­ver­tis­ing rev­enue the Cougars re­ceive. The slid­ing scale on ticket sales gives the city more rev­enue when the team draws big­ger crowds and less when there are fewer fans in the 6,000 seat arena.

“The more fans that at­tend Cougar games, the bet­ter the city does,” said Andy Beesley, the Cougars vice-pres­i­dent, busi­ness.

“They keep the food and bev­er­age com­mis­sions and at the end of the day, the more fans there are the bet­ter it is for ev­ery­body. From the Cougars’ point of view, and I think I’m speak­ing on be­half of the city’s side, we both feel it is a gen­uinely fair and eq­ui­table part­ner­ship agree­ment. Every arena (around the WHL) is vastly dif­fer­ent and we’ve crafted a Prince Ge­orge so­lu­tion we’re pretty proud of.”

Beesley pre­dicts the new lease will work well for both par­ties, as it has in pre­vi­ous years, and it shows the team un­der its lo­cal own­er­ship group, EDGEPRo Sports & En­ter­tain­ment, has no in­ten­tion of ever leav­ing Prince Ge­orge.

“We’ve never wa­vered once, be­hind closed doors or out in pub­lic, we’ve never talked about mov­ing, we’re all in it for the long haul, from our own­ers on down, we’re com­mit­ted to Prince Ge­orge and we don’t just talk about be­ing com­mit­ted, we’ve proven it,” said Beesley.

Since the new own­er­ship group bought the team in May 2014, Beesley said the Cougars have do­nated more than $1 mil­lion to lo­cal char­i­ties through its Alumni Hos­pi­tal Char­ity golf tour­na­ment and pro­ceeds from 50/50 draws.

“It’s some­thing that sets us apart from all the other teams, every­thing we do for char­ity pur­poses is for other peo­ple,” said Beesley.

“We’ve also given away over the last five years over $250,000 in mer­chan­dise and tick­ets and other stuff to help sup­port peo­ple with their fundrais­ers and si­lent auc­tion din­ners.

“Look­ing at the last 25 sea­sons we’ve had over 2.5 mil­lion fans at­tend our games, it’s a tremen­dous legacy and his­tory we’ve had, in­clud­ing watch­ing play­ers like (Zdeno) Chara, (Brett) Con­nolly, (Dustin) Byfuglien, (Dan) Hamhuis and (Eric) Brewer in our own back yard. There’s a lot the Cougars do to con­trib­ute to this com­mu­nity and it’s more than just if we’re win­ning and los­ing games.”

The team’s part­ner­ship with Spirit of the North Health­care Foun­da­tion led to the cre­ation of the Spirit of Healthy Kids school pro­gram, which in­volves the play­ers speak­ing to el­e­men­tary school groups about mak­ing healthy life­style choices. That has reached 20,000 stu­dents in five years and this sea­son, through video links, stu­dents through­out the North­ern Health re­gion will be able to par­tic­i­pate, with each re­ceiv­ing a ticket for a Cougars game.

Mayor Lyn Hall was also on hand for the lease agree­ment an­nounce­ment at CN Cen­tre and he’s look­ing for­ward to wit­ness­ing first­hand the Cougars’ on-ice im­prove­ment, hav­ing missed the play­offs for a sec­ond straight sea­son.

“This agree­ment pro­vides the city with im­por­tant rev­enue, it keeps the Cougars as our Num­ber 1 ten­ant in a premier city fa­cil­ity, and it al­lows both or­ga­ni­za­tions to ben­e­fit in the fu­ture, based on team im­prove­ments and in­creased at­ten­dance at CN Cen­tre,” said Hall.

“On be­half of coun­cil, I’m very pleased to see the Cougars and the city work­ing so well to­gether, and as a fan, I can’t wait for next sea­son to be­gin.”

CI­TI­ZEN PHOTO BY BRENT BRAATEN

Prince Ge­orge Cougars vice pres­i­dent Andy Beesley speaks dur­ing a me­dia an­nounce­ment that the City of Prince Ge­orge and Cougars have re­newed their rental agree­ment for six years.

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