The Rockford IceHogs were back at home Wednesday night and while a lot of fighting is taking place on the ice it's not exactly all quiet behind the scenes. Rockford and Winnebago County leaders have to study the play book quickly to decide the future of the MetroCentre. Wednesday night one committee made the first move.
Winnebago County's Economic Development committee voted 2 to 1 to support $23 million in renovations to the Rockford MetroCentre. L.C. Wilson was the lone no vote. Wilson stated, "It's only business like to get all your ducks in a row and then discuss and we just didn't do that."
It's the first of many decisions that the Chicago Blackhawks are waiting for in order to take over the ice. CentreEvents General Manager Corey Pearson tells 23 News, "They want to know that they can put players in the new facility."
Winnebago County would chip in $450,000 from landfill host fees. The funds would be used to issue a 20-year bond to change the MetroCentre inside and out. County Board Member Mary Ann Aiello says, "The renovations are tied to the Blackhawks coming what if we sell those bonds and the Blackhawks don't come we're stuck with 20 years of bonds with no team."
County Board member John Ekberg went on to say, "There are a lot of questions that need to be answered in the next 5 - 6 days before the next board meeting."
While all this is going on talks continue between the MetroCentre and IceHogs owners. Pearson says, "We want them as part of this but because of UHL rules they can't own an AHL franchise without significant penalty."
IceHogs Co-owner Dr. Kris Tumilowicz states, “It's nice 2 see that the renovation project has some support so no matter which team plays at the MetroCentre next year. I'm gratified to see that renovations will go forward."
But that's not a done deal either. The full Winnebago County Board, Rockford City Council and the MetroCentre Authority Board all still have to have their say. The full Winnebago County Board is expected to take its first look at the issue on the 21st.