By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facility Inc. board has given Global Spectrum the green light to negotiate a new lease with the Hamilton Bulldogs.
John Hertel, chief operating officer of HECFI, will be directing the negotiations along with Global Spectrum, which will be taking over the operations of all the facilities, including Copps Coliseum early next year, to complete the lease talks with Hamilton Bulldgods owner Michael Andlauer as soon as possible.
Hertel confirmed Global Spectrum is looking at a five-year lease for the AHL club; the term will be the same length as the Bulldogs’ affiliation contract with their parent company, the Montreal Canadiens.
“This will keep the Bulldogs in Hamilton,” said Hertel.
In 2010, the Bulldogs signed a three-year extension with the city to stay at Copps Coliseum. The lease is scheduled to end March, 2013.
"We are very pleased with the decision of the HECFI board," said Stephen Ostaszewicz, president of the Hamilton Bulldogs. "We look forward to working with both HECFI and Global Spectrum/Live Nation to work out the specific details of the lease agreement."
The HECFI board’s motion, approved after a 20-minute in camera meeting on Dec. 5, includes a line that says if there is no hockey team at Copps during the contract’s term, it will be “revisited and adjusted appropriately.”
The agreement should put to rest rumours the Bulldogs were preparing to leave for a new arena in Laval,Quebec, and that HECFI officials were in talks with an Ontario Hockey League team, identified as the Erie Otters, about finding a replacement team.
“I sure hope it does put to rest that speculation,” said Hertel.
Ostaszewicz said Andlauer is "committed to hockey in Hamilton and to providing a quality on-ice product."
In a letter sent to the city late last month, Geoff Molson, owner of the Canadiens urged the city to begin discussing the negotiations due to the “economic benefits and considerable national exposure.”
The HECFI board has held a series of meetings, mostly behind closed doors, over the last month to discuss the lease arrangement with Global Spectrum officials.
He said the lease arrangement with the Bulldogs keeps the hockey club in Hamilton for at least five years. He said there is no escape clause in the contract for the Bulldogs to leave for another location. Hertel said the only exception clause in the contract would be if an NHL team were allowed to play at Copps.
“That is pretty standard,” said Hertel. “The Bulldogs know that.”
Hertel said Global Spectrum, with its heavy marketing and promotion team, is preparing to grow the hockey club through alternative revenue streams and produce a more exciting fan experience. He said there will be “benchmarks” in place in the contract that will have to be met. Global Spectrum is expected to partner with the Bulldogs to promote the team. The Bulldogs currently do all of their own marketing.
“(Global Spectrum) has got the horse power to enhance the experience, and grow attendance,” he said.