The Winnebago County Board wants a renovated MetroCentre. But they decided tonight they won't fund it at the cost of the U.H.L. IceHogs.
With the booing, and one fan getting ejected for what amounted to unsportstman-like condust, tonight's county board meeting had all the makings of a good old-fashioned hockey brawl... until the assembled fans got what they wanted.
County Board Member Mary Ann Aiello explains: "We told them if they want a franchise we won't give them the $9 million dollars, they can't do the renovations without the $9 million dollars. So we hope this is the end of it so they can go ahead and get the money together to get the renovations and leave the hockey and the soccer and the football alone."
The board voted 17 to 11 for an amendment stating it won't participate in an intergovernmental agreement to fund MetroCentre renovations if any money will go to buy an A.H.L. hockey team.
That opens the door for the IceHogs to step back into negotiations with the MetroCentre, despite harsh words tossed back and forth.
Says IceHogs co-owner Craig Drecktah, "It was a very emotional time. It was hard for both of us. Things were said, we hope we can get past that and work on a lease."
MetroCentre leaders say they may look into renewing the IceHogs' lease. But they're main concern now is whether the renovations will get done on time.
"I don't think the city's going to approve it this way. I hope it doesn't drag on I'm worried about hitting timelines," says MetroCentre General Manager Corey Pearson.
Rockford's legal director, Patrick Hayes says the county's vote may do more than just slow the process.
Says Hayes, "It's going to be very difficult to have the financial model function without that central ownership, and that's been the centerpiece all along, so to have the county board change directions at this point is a very unfortunate event."
Hayes says he believes everyone is committed to renovating the MetroCentre. But he's just not sure it's financially possible without the option to buy out the IceHogs.