The Port Alberni Junior Hockey Society announced their intention to buy a majority stake in the Alberni Valley Bulldogs and now they’ve announced their plan.
The society must raise $500,000 by June 1 and the purchase from majority share holder Okanagan Hockey Schools must be approved by the BCHL before the non-profit entity can take possession of the shares.
At a Thursday press conference at the AV Multiplex, society chair Darren DeLuca rolled out two fundraising initiatives: the Donors Club, which requires people to donate $200 or multiples of; and the Founders Club, which requires donations of $5,000 each.
The society will issue tax receipts for the donations, which will be held in trust until the project is completed 44 days from now.
The group has to raise an average of $10,000 day. “That’s a lot of money, but if there’s any community in Canada that can do this it’s our community,” PAJHS director Tom McEvay said.
The group received a significant financial shot in the arm.
Community Futures in Port Alberni gave the society a $50,000 loan to advance the initiative. The World Under 17 society gave $10,000 for seed money. Businessman Greg Mollon contributed $5,000 for a founders club membership.
“Greg Mollon told me that “There are a lot of things this community has raised money for but none more important than this because it can impact us all,”” McEvay said.
Majority ownership of the team is the priority right now. “But 100 per cent of the team (which will require $1 million) is the goal,” McEvay said. “But we have to stay focused on the money we need to raise over the next 45 days…or we’re done.”
The city and Alberni Clayoquot Regional District support the initiative. The city is issuing tax receipts and the ACRD has donated office space, McEvay said.
In response to why the short time frame, McEvay responded that if the transaction is to be sealed then it has to be minted by the BCHL board of governors at their June 6 meeting.
The group never made its bid sooner because the team has had good ownership and has been on solid footing for a decade.
After the press conference, McEvay said that the BCHL has stated that its not going to expand its number of teams; That the only way to get one is to buy an existing franchise.
“It’s hard to know if others want to own our Junior A franchise,” he said. “If the opportunity is there to recoup (investment) I wouldn’t begrudge that right at all.”
Hockey is a game but its teams are also business assets that can be bought and sold. DeLuca was clear that the group was pursuing the team.
The team’s budget is $650,000 a year. “If we get 1,100-1,200 fans and no playoffs then it’s a tough road to hoe,” McEvay said. But, “If the money is right then they’d listen and we’re not the ones they’d listen to,’ McEvay said of OHS’ Andy Oakes.
If the group succeeds in purchasing a majority stake then OHS will remain on in an advisory capacity for one year. But if the group fails,“Then it will be business as usual and they own the team,” McEvay said.
The team’s minority owners – Dr. David Ness and the and Dennis Cee who combined own 49 per cent of the team – don’t have an interest in expanding their stake, McEvay said.
The group also deflected concerns that Alberni has been treated like a distant poor cousin. “OHS has been treated like a distant cousin by Port,” DeLuca said.
The Bulldogs are a small piece of the much larger business interest with other assets. “’OHS has flaws and they’ve admitted they’ve made mistakes,” McEvay said “But this isn’t a fire sale of a Get-out-of-Dodge sale, and this isn’t a hostile takeover.’
The team has been in the Valley for 10 years and now is a good barometer of whether complete community ownership can happen or not. “I think the time is right,” McEvay said.
Donors and Founders Clubs’ donations can be made at: RBC Branch on Third Avenue; Tyler-Mollon Chartered Accountants, 3940 Johnston Rd.; the AV Bulldogs office on Roger Street; Port Alberni City Hall on Argyle Street; and at the PAJHS office next door to the Coastal Community Credit Union on Fourth Avenue.