Hockey fans in West Kelowna will soon know the ultimate fate of their B.C. Hockey League team.
Warriors’ owner Mark Cheyne said an official announcement regarding the club’s future will be made during Friday night’s playoff game at Royal LePage Place.
With a potential deal to move to the Warriors to North Delta recently taken off the table, Cheyne is holding discussions this week with potential ownership groups in two other B.C. communities.
However, if a local group in West Kelowna can come up with the necessary funds, Cheyne is all for seeing the Warriors remain right where they are.
“I’d preferably like to see local investors take over the team,” said Cheyne, who took over sole ownership of the club in 2009. “I want to give the locals every chance, a lot of blood, sweat and tears has gone into this team over the years. Nobody wants to see it go, so will give these guys every opportunity to keep it here.”
In January, Cheyne had negotiated a deal which would have seen the Warriors move to the Sungod Arena in North Delta for the 2017-18 season.
But Cheyne said it quickly became apparent the Delta group wasn’t prepared to take the franchise over.
“It wasn’t going to pass by the BCHL,” Cheyne said of the potential move to North Delta. “Hockey operations would have been fine, but the business side wouldn’t have worked…they just didn’t have the ownership in place they needed.”
Warriors director of business operations Alex Draper said word that the team is not moving to North Delta is positive, but the community still has plenty of work to do to save the franchise.
“It is positive news but we are so far from being out of the woods,” said Draper. “The whole thing is Mark is losing money and whether the sale fell through or not, does not mean we are still in operation next year. We have to find local investors. We dodged a bullet but there are more coming.”
Draper said since news broke of the Warriors potential sale, crowds have grown and the community has rallied, but added the big thing is finding local investors to help keep the team in West Kelowna.
“Our last four games have been our biggest gates of the year and I would assume most people are coming out to help keep the team here,” he said. “Even a full arena, as critical as that is, is not going to save the team.
“Plan A is getting local investors and it sounds like we have until Friday.”
Based on the developments of the last several weeks, Cheyne believes there’s still a “50-50 chance” the Warriors will remain in West Kelowna.
Regardless of where the Warriors are located next season, Cheyne said he will continue to be involved with the club in order to help the new group through the transition.
The last and least desirable option for Cheyne would be to simply fold the team.