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Arena deal between Collingwood Blues, town on ice — for now

'It puts me in a bit of a vulnerable position ...I’m committing to them for next year, and they haven’t committed back to me,' said team owner Dave Steele
The Collingwood Blues celebrate a win during a regular season game in 2023.

The Town of Collingwood and Collingwood Blues Junior 'A' hockey team ownership are working to come up with a new contract for team's use of the Eddie Bush Memorial Arena, but have hit a snag. 

Time is ticking with the Ontario Junior Hockey League requiring all teams to commit to next season by Jan. 15, 2024 and the existing contract between the town and the Blues expiring Aug. 20, 2024. 

Collingwood councillors discussed the Blues contract during a closed meeting at their Jan. 8 council meeting, after receiving a letter signed by the team owners Dave and Christina Steele and the Blues board chair Terry Geddes. 

The letter, dated Dec. 19, 2023, asks the town to extend the Blues contract by a year, citing strict time commitment guidelines with the Ontario Junior Hockey League (OJHL) to plan for the 2024/25 season.

At their Jan. 8 meeting following an in-camera session, council voted to not grant the request and continue negotiations with Blues ownership.

“It puts me in a bit of a vulnerable position, a trusting position with the town,” Blues owner Dave Steele sid following the meeting. “I’m committing to them for next year, and they haven’t committed back to me.”

Steele says the team has to commit and provide information to the league about their venue so the league can start setting the schedule for next season’s games. They are also required to pay the league to participate by Jan. 15. Steele says he has made the commitment to the league already, even without a signed contract with the town.

He says the Blues ownership is OK with extending the existing agreement as it stands with no changes. While he estimates closed-door discussions started with the town back in October, he says talks haven’t progressed, which is what led to the Blues executive voting to request a one-year extension in December as their January deadlines to commit drew nearer.

He says, as of now, he has not been made aware of what changes the town would like to make to the existing contract.

“We don’t want to go anywhere. We want to be here,” he said. “Contractually, we’re taking a risk... trusting the negotiation will be amicable. The town wants to do the re-negotiation. We would be happy to continue another five years with the same agreement.”

The existing Collingwood Blues contract (when signed, the team was called the Collingwood Colts), was signed by the town and Blues ownership and went into effect in 2019, following the Colts being awarded tenancy of the Eddie Bush Memorial Arena.

The contract is for five years from signing and is set to expire on Aug. 20 this year. An option to renew the contract by mutual agreement is available through the terms for two increments of five years each, for a total term of ten years.

The rental agreement is a split of net revenues received/collected from sales of all advertising properties inside and outside the Eddie Bush Memorial Arena and Central Park Arena. This includes in-ice logos, ice resurfacers, scoreclocks, rinkboards and external signage.

Net revenues are gross revenues minus material sponsorship costs, taxes, and commissions.

At the time of this agreement, the town transferred all contracts related to advertising at the Eddie Bush Memorial Arena and Central Park Arena to the Blues ownership prior to the start of the 2019 hockey season.

The Blues agreed to pay 30 per cent of the net revenue of all sponsored advertising acquired for the Eddie Bush Memorial Arena and Central Park Arena to the town in two annual instalments.

CollingwoodToday sent questions to the town regarding how much the Blues paid to the town through this agreement annually starting in 2019, but questions were not answered by publication time.

However, Steele told CollingwoodToday that this accounted for just under $35,000 to the town in 2023.

Under the agreement, the Blues can only use the Eddie Bush for the purposes of the operation of the junior hockey team including practices, games, team meetings, and equipment storage.

The Blues were given sole and exclusive use of the junior hockey office, junior hockey laundry/trainer/storage, junior hockey dressing room and the concession rooms inside the Hall of Fame. They were given non-exclusive use of the Hall of Fame room, the gondolas and the visitor dressing room.

In the case of any dispute between the town and the Blues during the term of the contract and of any renewal, and as to any issues relating to the rental of the facility, either party can give the other notice of the dispute and demand arbitration.

Contracts of this nature are typically negotiated between the town and third parties privately as they may require legal advice, but can be made public following the signing of an agreement.

Following the Jan. 8 in-camera session, council returned to public session to vote on the outcome of the discussion.

Council voted unanimously in favour of requesting the Blues contract negotiations continue, and having the mayor send a letter to the OJHL to express appreciation for the Collingwood Blues in the community, and requesting their support to extend the deadline for league commitment until the town and the Blues complete contract negotiations.

Coun. Kathy Jeffery and Coun. Christopher Baines did not participate or vote on the matter, as they both declared conflicts as they have affiliations with the Collingwood Blues.


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Jessica Owen

About the Author: Jessica Owen

Jessica Owen is an experienced journalist working for Village Media since 2018, primarily covering Collingwood and education.
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