If Squamish can coax the Chilliwack Chiefs hockey team onside, they could have a business case to build the multi-million Paralympic ice arena in their town.
Squamish Mayor Ian Sutherland confirmed this week that discussions are underway with the owners of the Junior A hockey team from Chilliwack.
The Chiefs could be the major tenant Squamish needs to help pay the bills of the 5,000-seat Paralympic arena, originally slated to go in Whistler Village.
And it just seems like a natural fit, said Sutherland, for the Chilliwack Chiefs to move to the home of the majestic Stawamus Chief, the imposing mountain overlooking the town.
"You couldnt think, in some ways, of a better fit than the Chiefs moving to Squamish," said Sutherland this week. "It makes a lot of sense."
The Paralympic facility, which is designed to hold the sledge hockey events in 2010, was Whistlers arena to build with a $20 million contribution from VANOC.
But, after studying the financial models of what it would cost to build the facility in the resort, Whistler gave Squamish the chance to see how feasible the arena would be in that town. No details of the financial implications of building the arena in either Whistler or Squamish have been made public to date but both towns have confirmed it would be cheaper to build a 5,000-seat arena in Squamish.
In addition, a confidential KPMG study commissioned by Whistler states an arena of this size adds value to the resort experience but it wont necessarily drive additional visitors to Whistler. The full details of this report are not available.
While no decisions have been made, Sutherland said there is continuing dialogue with various parties, including the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Games.
No matter what Squamish decides in the weeks ahead, ultimately the decision rests with Whistler council. They must notify VANOC of their decision by the end of August/early September.
The British Columbia Hockey League Commissioner John Grisdale confirmed this week that the Chilliwack Chiefs have notified the league office of their intent to seek relocation for the 2006-07 season. They have not yet told the league where they want to go but will have until early December to notify officials of their preferred new location. The board of the BCHL will make the final ruling.
The decision to relocate the Chiefs comes on the heels of a deal to bring a Western Hockey League franchise to Chilliwack. That team is called the Tri-City Americans and is owned in part by the same group of businessmen who own the Chiefs.