A last ditch effort to keep the West Kelowna Warriors where they are is underway.
Alex Draper, the team’s director of business operations, is among a group of dedicated locals putting their time toward drumming up interest for a new ownership coalition.
“We have a couple irons in the fire, but we need more investors,” said Draper, who started the effort in earnest last week.
“People started expressing interest and we thought, ‘let’s do what we can then we can look in the mirror and say we did the best we could.’”
In addition to private investors looking into the feasibility of a group-ownership plan, Draper said they’ve also had support from the City of West Kelowna.
Bob Kusch, West Kelowna’s Parks, Recreation and Culture Manager, on Tuesday submitted a report, that recommended council approve the application of “Home of the 2016 RBC Cup Champions” decals on all city vehicles should the West Kelowna Warriors remain.
“…They are seeking support from the city to express pride and support for the franchise and recognize the teams’ achievements,” read Kusch’s report.
“The new proposed ownership group believes, that by doing so, the city would assist in their efforts to increase the fan base.”
Draper said that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The city has also told them it’s open to releasing advertising space to the team in Royal LePage Place that could offer an additional revenue stream.
“They’ve told us, ‘We want you guys here,’” said Draper.
Draper acknowledges that keeping the team local isn’t going to be easy, but there’s precedence with three community-owned teams in the league.
“For these teams local investment has come together and they have a local board that can pass laws and that kind of thing,” he said.
While the specifics are far from being hammered out, Draper said it’s clear there’s a contingent of hockey-minded residents who want it to happen and he wants to help.
“The other day a 10-year-old in Kelowna minor hockey come up to me and ask, ‘if the Warriors leave am I still a Warrior?’” he said.
“You hear that kind of thing and you have to do what you can.”
The plan to move the team to Delta is still moving ahead, but Draper said that if something happens to keep the team local the current owner would support it.
“He always wanted to keep the team here, the three or four years he was selling it we hoped it was going to be to a local investor,” he said.
Warriors’ owner Mark Cheyne signed a letter of intent to transfer ownership of the club to a Delta businessman last month, with the move subject to approval by the league’s board of governors.
The team was a money-losing venture since moving to West Kelowna from Langley in 2006, Cheyne took over sole ownership of the club in 2009.
With an RBC Cup championship run last season, Cheyne hoped the club’s financial fortunes would finally take a turn for the better. But with community support for the team and attendance remaining stagnant this season, Cheyne said the writing was on the wall.
“We were never even close to breaking even once and after awhile it’s just no fun anymore,” Cheyne said. “The last few years, you look for that light at the end of the tunnel, and when we won it all last year, we hoped that would be it.
“I was told once you get by Vernon, once you get by Penticton, once you win something big, it’ll turn around,” Cheyne added. “But the light at the end never came.”
To get in touch with Draper email firstname.lastname@example.org.