Lease snag has Victoria Grizzlies’ future in doubt

A snag in negotiations over a new lease at The Q Centre in Colwood means there is a real possibility that the Victoria Grizzlies could fold up shop, and soon.

Negotiations between the B.C. Hockey League club — which has struggled financially the last few years — and the West Shore Parks and Recreation committee have faltered.

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Grizzlies president and alternate governor John Wilson was not available for comment, but vice-president of business operations Sonya Saujani made it clear that the team has one foot practically out the door.

“We’ve hit an end of the road, so to speak, with West Shore Parks and Rec. It looks like we’re not going to get a deal. We have until the end of the month to figure this out, but there is a good chance the Grizzlies could be going black then,” she said.

“Ownership is not prepared to lose any more money and West Shore Parks and Rec doesn’t seem to understand that.

“We’re not trying to get rich here, we’re just trying to break even and keep this team in Victoria. We’ve done everything we can to keep this team in Victoria, now it’s up to someone else to step up and give us a place to play that we can afford,” she added.

The Q Centre’s other main tenant, the Victoria Shamrocks, have long expressed their displeasure with their own lease and the organization is also in the last year of its deal. Losing one or both clubs would obviously affect how the facility is run.

Rob Martin, the chairman of the committee, said the group had pitched the Grizzlies a deal at 5 p.m. on Wednesday and had not heard back. He was not prepared to negotiate in the media, but the two sides are meeting again today at 1 p.m.

“We’re hoping to have a resolution,” he said.

A sticking point in negotiations is the Grizzlies were paying the highest rent in the BCHL prior to this latest offer. The team also does not get a portion of concession or liquor sales at the facility. The Victoria HarbourCats are said to get a percentage of sales at city owned Royal Athletic Park.

“We would like to and that’s something we will be looking for in the next lease, absolutely,” Wilson told the Times Colonist during the team’s playoff run in March. “We have to find a happy medium. They need revenues to operate the arena and we need a figure that works and revenue back from the concession to operate this team.”

Instead, the Grizzlies claim the West Shore committee has reportedly proposed a $36,000 increase as part of the lease negotiations. All details were not made readily available by either side.

There have long been rumours of a new rink being constructed in Langford, but that would be at least two seasons away and Westhills Arena is too small to host a Junior A team. So for now, the future of the BCHL franchise is in jeopardy.

mannicchiarico@timescolonist.com

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