For over a year the MetroCentre has been working to enter into a franchise agreement with the Chicago Blackhawks whose in the American Hockey League. But the deal is a hat-trick for the county, the city and MetroCentre. Being tied to the Blackhawks means fans, the team and the MetroCentre expect more. That's where a $23 million renovation project comes in. The complex will get a complete overhaul inside and outside. Corporate suits, club seats and state of the art video scoreboards.
CentreEvents General Manager Corey Pearson states, “We’re finding a way to make this work so we're not increasing ticket prices for the average ticket buyer."
The City of Rockford is kicking in $900,000. Winnebago County will use landfill host fee funds for this project that might boost job opportunities. Winnebago County Board Chair Scott Christiansen states, "This is going to help us with marketing our community. When we're trying to attract corporate business this is what they are looking for venues like this."
The MetroCentre will contribute $400,000 annually through operational revenue and is treating this as a no risk opportunity. Pearson goes on to say, "We're able to spend money I think more economically by putting the two together but we can weigh what it's making what it's losing and be able to operate more effectively and we make decisions as a community."
Already the MetroCentre has a $20 million economic impact in Rockford. By being a part of the AHL, $10 million is likely to come our way. The AHL Rockford IceHogs team is expected to take the ice next season. A new and improved MetroCentre won't be unveiled till spring 2008.
But what's still not settled is the deal between CentreEvents and the Rockford IceHogs. The MetroCentre wants to buy the name and logo from IceHogs owners Dr. Kris Tumilowicz and Craig Drecktrah. Both sides have been in talks for months but money is on the line. The City of Rockford says a deal has been reached. But co-owners say nothing has been finalized. IceHogs owners say they still want to be a part of the teams future. There's talk of them being a part of an advisory board.