Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Wheat Kings Agree to 5-Year Lease

Kelly McCrimmon speaks during Wednesday's
Media Conference
The Brandon Wheat Kings and the Keystone Centre officially announced a new five-year lease agreement earlier today.

The deal will allow the Wheat Kings to continue to call Westman Communications Group Place their home through the 2016-2017 Western Hockey League season.

The announcements comes eight days ahead of when the current lease agreement, which was signed in 1997, was set to expire.

Both sides seem pleased with the new deal, which will see the Wheat Kings pay significantly more to the Keystone Centre than they had under terms of the previous deal but also maintain the current structure as far as agency and facility fees are concerned.

“We pay considerably more in the deal so when you look at what works for the Wheat Kings, we really felt strongly about protecting our customers and not having them subject to a lot of additional fees to attend our games,” said Brandon general manager Kelly McCrimmon, “We’ve been able to acquire additional space to grow which is imperative. We needed space for offices, we’ll be able to add some space to our dressing room and training areas and when you look at the player experience, you really have to be cognisant of trying to raise the bar in that area.”

Financial terms of the new agreement were not disclosed but both sides say they will work together to improve the fan experience at Wheat Kings’ home games.

“It increases our revenue, which we definitely need as a facility…we’re always looking for additional dollars so it definitely does that,” said Keystone Centre Chairman John Macialek on Wednesday, “We’re in a place where the Wheat Kings are very significant to the province, the city and especially to the Keystone Centre itself so the agreement makes that solid for the next five years.”

There is a ‘good faith’ understanding that there will be capital improvements made in the main arena including upgrades to arena lighting, seating and sound.

There have been no notable capital improvements in the main arena during the previous 15-year lease with the exception of the Memorial Cup, which was spearheaded by the hockey club itself.

“We’ve fallen far behind with respect to arena lighting, our sound system is very dated and our seats are very dated,” said McCrimmon, “I think those are areas where we really hope to make progress over the term of this agreement. I referred to it earlier as a good faith understanding that we’re going to work at that.”

“The upgrades that were mentioned are significant costs, and our funding partners will be key in looking after those issues,” said Macialek, “As an entity ourselves, it’s going to be tough for us to do them without funding partner assistance.”

The Wheat Kings also announced their season ticket pricing for 2012-2013 during Wednesday’s media conference.

An adult season ticket will b e $425 for the upcoming season, which equates to about $12 per game. That is up from $350 in 2011-2012.

“We take a lot of pride in the fan experience that’s afford to our customers. We’re the most affordable ticket in the Western Hockey League by a substancial margin. Our prices will go up this year but we’ll still be the most affordable tickets in the WHL,” said McCrimmon, “Our game-night experience is a real high priority for our organization. Our people do a great job in being prepared, keeping it fresh, and watching what other teams do…we’re the 17th-sized market in a 22-team league and I think we really have to focus on doing things right, being efficient and that’s something we’ve taken a great deal of pride in over the years.”

On average, Eastern Conference teams charge $575 per season ticket with Moose Jaw the closest in terms of pricing to Brandon. The Warriors sell their season tickets for $450.

For the first time in seven years, the Wheat Kings will offer Senior Season ticket pricing in 2012-2013 ($375) while Youth (18 and under) season tickets will cost $200.

You can receive a $25 discount if you order and pay for your season tickets prior to June 15th.

I spoke with Wheat Kings' GM Kelly McCrimmon about the new lease agreement shortly after Wednesday's media conference...

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