Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Casper, Wyoming Working to Join CHL

If you remember, last year Casper, Wyoming made an attempt to acquire a CHL franchise but the ownership group could not raise the necessary funds. I found this article written by Kelly Byer who is a staff writer for the Star-Tribune. Sounds like there is some ongoing interest in pursuing a CHL franchise.

Former state legislator and U.S. Rep. John Wold has offered $1 million to help facilitate hockey in the Casper Events Center.
Wold’s goal is to do his part in fostering growing interest in professional hockey.
Wold’s donation would cover about half of the estimated $2.2 million needed for a sheet of ice, dasher boards and other equipment.
His gift is contingent on four conditions the city must meet by Dec. 31: He wants to approve the franchise and lease agreement with the hockey team, ice floor budget, engineering plans and any additional funding, according to city documents.
The Casper City Council is scheduled to vote on whether to accept Wold’s donation and his conditions during today’s council meeting.
The 97-year-old Wold played hockey at New York’s Union College in the late 1930s. He said the game hasn’t changed much, but the fan base has.
“There wasn’t the national hockey fever that you have today,” he said. “Here is a rising interest, both in educational hockey teams from schools but also semi-professional and professional involvement.”
The venture would be almost completely funded by hockey “enthusiasts,” who Wold said seek to capitalize on the Events Center facilities.
“We are blessed with the setup,” he said. “The physical setup at the start.”
A group of private investors attempted to acquire a Central Hockey League team and update the Events Center in time for the 2013-14 season, but they failed to raise enough money by spring deadlines. The investors will now attempt to solicit players from outside the state to form a team by the 2014-15 season.
The CHL is roughly comparable to baseball’s AA level in the hierarchy of minor league hockey. The closest franchises to Casper are the Rapid City Rush and Denver Cutthroats. Players participate in about 40 home games each season, which begins in October and ends in March.
City Manager John Patterson has said the installation of an ice sheet should take fewer than 90 days, and it would stay on the floor eight months a year. A 1-inch-thick board would be placed over the ice to host concerts and other events.
The Casper Ice Arena, located at the Casper Recreation Center, is currently the only rink in Casper. It plays host to amateur hockey, figure skating and curling.
Jolene Whitley is president of the Casper Oilers Amateur Hockey Club. Whitley said a professional team would raise interest in the sport and provide learning opportunities for the youth league. The club, which has been in Casper since 1969, would likely explore mentorship programs or coaching clinics for its young players.
“That is one of our goals, is to keep the organization growing,” she said. “The professional league here, I think, would be a huge benefit for that.”
Whitley said youth hockey members could also entertain the audience during halftime shows to build a mutual relationship with the professional league. The amateur league consists of 200 members between the ages of 4 and 19; the 4- to 8-year-old age group is the largest with 80 players.
“Hockey’s a great sport for kids,” Whitley said. “We’re not just building hockey, we’re building teamwork.”
She said many amateur members and their parents have supported the idea of a professional team in Casper because of the potential benefit to youth hockey.

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