With both the success his team enjoyed and the positive manner in which the city responded back in 2004, it’s little surprise that Bruce Hamilton wants to bring the Master Memorial Cup back to Kelowna.
The Rockets are one of five Western Hockey League teams expressing an interest in hosting the 2013 edition of major junior hockey’s season-ending showcase.
Red Deer, Lethbridge, Saskatoon and Prince George also have plans to be in the running this fall.
However, unlike last time, Hamilton doesn’t expect as many candidates to be in the mix when the final decision is made.
“I think this will be a bit of a different bidding process in that the league will try and get this down to just two or three teams,” said Hamilton, who is at the 2011 Memorial Cup this weekend in Mississauga. “It won’t be quite as elaborate as last time. In our case, we’ll present all the things we’ve got in place and what we know from having done it before. We’ll bring the city into it as the process goes along and, outside of financing which hasn’t been secured yet, there’s not a lot else we need to do.”
Two key individuals in Kelowna’s previously successful bid, chairman Paul Mitchell and Bill Winters (finances), have agreed to represent the Rockets’ bid team once again.
One of the criteria for potential bidders is a guaranteed financial kickback to the Western Hockey League.
In 2004, the Rockets guaranteed and delivered on a $900,000 promise.
Hamilton expects the number in 2013 to be somewhere between $1.5 and $1.8 million.
“That’s the challenge for us to generate those kinds of revenues and of course it’s not just going to be the hockey club that’s doing that,” he said. “We’re going to be soliciting other possible partners, see what governments parts we can involve, and find ways to outsource other revenues.”
In order to meet the financial expectations and bid criteria Hamilton said Prospera Place would be in need of some improvements, with new dressing rooms and a larger press box at the top of the list. Several hundred new seats in the south end of the arena would also be beneficial, Hamilton said.
Saskatoon last played host to the Memorial Cup in 1989, while Red Deer, Lethbridge and Prince George have never hosted the CHL tournament.
The fact that the Rockets hosted the tournament just seven years ago could be seen as mark against the Kelowna bid. Still, Hamilton hopes the quality and competitiveness of his team by 2013 might be enough to keep the Rockets in the race.
“Because we hosted a few years ago, that could come into play,” he said, “but they’re also going to look at how good our team is going to be. The majority of teams will likely generate the same kinds of dollars, so that shouldn’t be a factor. You look at the team we should have, and I’m pretty confident we’ll be in good shape with guys like (Shane) McColgan and (Colton) Sissons, we’ve got (defencemen) Madison Bowey and Jesse Lees coming along, our top draft pick Rourke Chartier will be 17, and (goalie) Jordon Cooke will be 19. Our overage players won’t be as deep, but that’s something you can work on.”
If the Rockets are successful, Hamilton said the event will be bigger and better than in 2004.
“We started the festival-style that all the Memorial Cups have now and we’d be looking to expand on that. We’d grow this into an even bigger event,” he said.
“The last time it was here, it put the city on the map. We had a tremendous volunteer base and we know they’d rally behind it again.”
The WHL is expected to choose its 2013 host city this October.