If you build it, they will come.
That’s the philosophy behind the upgrades and renovations undertaken at the Eddie Bush Arena in preparation for the inaugural season of the Mike Jackson Collingwood Colts, which starts Sept. 6.
Colts’ team president Dave Steele recently provided a tour of the upgrades made to the arena, and explained his vision behind all the changes.
After winning the bid for the Jr. A team in April, Steele said it was full steam ahead with plans to get everything done in time for the season start in September.
“It’s like, we’re building a hockey team, a brand and a restaurant in three months and being competitive with them all,” said Steele.
“It’s almost idiotic of an undertaking,” he said with a laugh. “But, it definitely is a passion that you have to be committed to.”
The Founder's Club lounge was a complete makeover with the walls, ceiling and floors ripped out, new lighting and kitchen equipment added. Branded decals adorn seats and most surfaces.
“I went way overboard, but I look at it as an investment in the building and the town. I want this to be an A-class experience for the people who paid to get a ticket here,” said Steele. “It’s not even just what you see on the walls, it’s the whole entertainment package. I want it to be super exciting and entertaining.”
All in all, the renovations to the arena cost $200,000 - a cost borne by the team.
“My philosophy is, build an unbelievably good family and entertainment package, and there’s a hockey game going on as well. That’s kind of my concept here in Collingwood,” he said.
“I want to give the town something to cheer for,” he added.
While Steele said he’s been overwhelmed with support from the local business community, he’s still actively looking for business sponsors for the rink boards.
“I also look at it as an unbelievable opportunity for businesses that were advertising in the Eddie Bush to get actual great exposure now. Before, it was passive exposure. Now, we’re going to have 45 televised Rogers games and a National CHCH game in February here,” he said.
The Colts’ first game is in Trenton on Sept. 6, but the first game to be played at the Eddie Bush will take place Sept. 13.
“So Friday the 13th is going to be our inaugural home game,” said Steele with a laugh. “It’ll be filled with ceremonies such as the puck drop, and the high school band playing. Our team will just be ready. We’ve got a great roster that went beyond my expectations.”
“I feel strongly we’re going to be a contender on the ice, and off the ice we’ll provide entertainment that’s beyond any other team in our league,” he added.
While Founder's Club tickets are completely sold out, there are still season tickets available, however they’re going fast, said Steele.
“There are 980 seats here, and we’re just under halfway sold between season and Founder's Club tickets,” he said.
A month out from their first home game, Steele said he is focused on building a winner.
“There’s so much to do between now and then still,” he said. “I’m just focused and working diligently every day with our sponsorships, relationships and billet families to put it all together.”
Steele credits a good support system for what’s helped him get through the past few months, with this month expected to be the busiest. However, he said if he can deliver on providing a higher level of modern entertainment, it will all be worth it for him.
“The thing that used to be the thing to do on Friday nights was to see the Collingwood Blues. Now, it’s going to be the Colts,” he said. “It’s going to be like being at an OHL game, but here in Collingwood.”
For more information or to buy tickets, click here.