TRF now boasts a Junior Hockey League team

by April Scheinoha

    A Superior International Junior Hockey League franchise is coming to Thief River Falls. At its meeting Tuesday, March 15, the Thief River Falls City Council approved a contract with the franchise.
    The SIJHL, which is affiliated with Canadian Junior Hockey, now has six teams. One other team – the Minnesota Iron Rangers, based in Hoyt Lakes – is located in the state. Earlier, the SIJHL granted provisional approval for the expansion franchise here, pending the results of franchise discussions with the city of Thief River Falls.
    The SIJHL has a 56-game regular season schedule from late September to early March. SIJHL players are at least 16 years old. Most are between the ages of 18 and 20. The SIJHL is one of 10 Junior A hockey leagues in Canada.
    Kevin McCallum, franchise general manager, said recruiting has already started. He added that he has 120 names of North American players who wanted to play here even before Thief River Falls committed to having a team.
    The name of the team hasn’t yet been determined. McCallum said the ownership group wants to celebrate the past, but it also wants the team to potentially have its own identity. He added that the group may seek the public’s help in naming the team.
    City leaders have been in talks with franchise representatives since last July. The franchise is also represented by Dave Beito and Tim Bergland, both of Thief River Falls.
    Council Member Jerald Brown noted that the city isn’t subsidizing the team. He added that the team is paying for personnel, such as ticket takers and security. Brown added that everyone wins if the team survives in Thief River Falls.
    As part of the one-year contract, the franchise will lease Ralph Engelstad Arena and Huck Olson Memorial Civic Center for training, practices and games starting this fall. The contract gives the franchise exclusive rights for a Junior Hockey team here for the next 11 years. The contract is renewable with both sides negotiating each year. The agreement stipulates that the rate increases may not exceed 10 percent unless the franchise agrees.
    Per the contract, an ice sheet will be available for the franchise from Oct. 24, 2016 to March 26, 2017. If the franchise needs an ice sheet beyond that time frame, it will be responsible for the costs associated with maintaining that particular ice sheet at the HOMCC or REA. The franchise will also be responsible for paying an additional 10 percent surcharge. Once the team no longer needs the ice sheet, it will provide written notice and will no longer be responsible for the costs of maintaining that ice sheet.
    The team will be charged $155 per hour for game ice, which includes the cost of two employees working a three-hour shift. If additional personnel were needed, with prior notice, the team would be billed at a rate of $15 per hour for each employee.
    The franchise will also be charged $40 for pre-game skating during “non-prime ice sheet hours” from 7:45 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Pre-game skating is not to exceed 30 minutes.
    The franchise will be charged $75 per hour for practice ice during the aforementioned “non-prime ice sheet hours.”
    As part of the contract, the team will also be able to operate, staff and receive the proceeds of a beer garden on the north end and in the suite area of REA. The franchise is required to pay for two uniformed police officers to be present while the beer garden is in operation. The city will continue to operate the concession stands.
    The team will also be allowed to have as many as two designated kiosks at the arena on game days. Game-day sponsors will be able to use the kiosks to give away or sell food and beverages. The team will be charged $300 per game for those kiosks.
    The franchise is also allowed to sell team-related merchandise and promotions at the arenas during its games. It will retain the proceeds of such activities.
    Ice sheet times have also been prioritized. The Junior Hockey franchise has the lowest priority on that list. The list also includes, from top to bottom priorities, the Thief River Falls School District, the Thief River Falls Amateur Hockey Association, the Thief River Falls Figure Skating Club; and city-approved athletic, civic and educational events. The contract stipulates that the city will provide its proposed schedule to the franchise prior to May 30 of each year.   At that time, the schedule of the arenas will be considered to be frozen. The team will provide game schedules to the city by July 1. The game dates would then be placed on the schedule.
    McCallum said the team plans to utilize ice not currently being utilized at the arenas. He added that local kids will potentially have two-and-a-half additional months of ice at the arenas as a result of Junior Hockey coming to Thief River Falls.
    The team will also lease a locker room and coach’s room for $300 per month. The team has exclusive rights to those rooms. If it were required to move from those locations, the city would provide on-site lock-up storage. The game ice rental fee includes the cost of renting locker rooms for visiting teams.
    The team will sell advertising on dasher boards and other areas at the arenas. Each year, the franchise will be responsible for paying the city $70,000 for that purpose. That amount is due by July 31 of each year. If the franchise sells more than $70,000 in advertising, the excess advertising revenue will be split between the franchise (85 percent) and the city (15 percent) minus any production expenses. Previously, city staff sold the advertisements.