Grizzlies Looking for Community Support in Arena Lease Fight

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Story and Photos by Christian J. Stewart (ISN)

May 22, 2015, Victoria, BC (ISN) – The Victoria Grizzlies are making an urgent appeal to their fans and the Greater Victoria community as a whole, to contact their local municipalities in suport of keeping the Grizzlies in the Westshore communities and in support of negotiating a fair lease agreement with Westshore Parks and Recreation for The Q Centre in Colwood, the Grizzlies home rink.

The Victoria Grizzlies are looking for a fair deal with Westshore Parks and Recreation for lease of The Q Centre in Colwwod.  Already paying the highest arena costs in the BCHL, Westshore Parks and Recreation initially proposed a $36,000 increase in rent to the Grizzlies for 2015-2016 (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

In reports made public last week, it was indicated that Westshore Parks and Recreation had proposed a $36,000 increase in rent at The Q Centre for the coming year, a move that if implemented, would have been a death knell for the financially struggling team, especially one that is already paying one of the highest lease costs in the entire BCHL.

After negotiations late last week, that position has softened to the point that it appears that the Grizzlies have come to a tentative agreement and can move forward with the coming season, but obviously there is concern and dissatisfaction and the team is looking for community support that will help in securing a final deal that ensures the long-term viability of the team in the Westshore.

In a statement released to season ticket holders and fans yesterday, Grizzlies Vice President of Operations Sonya Saujani noted, “The ownership group has been working hard and long over the past long weekend and week to keep the Victoria Grizzlies in the Westshore and at the Q Arena Specifically. We are currently under lease negotiations with West Shore Parks and Recreation and we need YOUR support. We are looking for a fair deal that makes sense over the long term to keep the Victoria Grizzlies in the Westshore.”

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Grizzlies VP of Operations Sonya Saujani: “We are looking for a fair deal that makes sense over the long term to keep the Victoria Grizzlies in the Westshore.  Your Voice is needed to make a difference” (File Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

She further went on to appeal to fans to contact their local politicians in support of the team. “We are asking you to call or email your local municipality and speak to your politicians in your area, and ask them to support the Victoria Grizzlies at the Q Centre Arena and help the Grizzlies get a fair deal with Westshore Parks and Recreation. This is a Community Team and needs your Community support. We are also asking you to email or call Westshore Parks and Recreation and show your support.

The Grizzlies and their predecessors before them, the Victoria Salsa, have a long history in the BC Hockey League and have consistently graduated players to the college, minor pro and professional levels. This includes current pros like Jamie and Jordie Benn and Tyler Bozak. The team is also heavily involved in community events and causes, last year alone, participating in over 36 different events in the Westshore communities.

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Including things like their “Blue Shirt” campaign for cancer research last season, the Grizzlies and their players were involved in over 36 community events in and around the Westshore.  They have also had a long history of graduating players to the next level, including here 2014-2015 players Jake Emillio (right) who is heading to Colorado College and Meirs Moore (left) who is headed to RPI (Photo: Christian J. Stewart / ISN)

It seems a bit unfair that a team with such a great history in the Westshore is now being held at ransom by the one organization, Westshore Parks and Recreation, that one would think would bend over backwards to do what they can to help keep the team in the community.

But it all comes down to business and dollars. Sources close to ISN have told us that Westshore Parks and Recreation can make more money renting the ice out to minor hockey and adult hockey leagues, and for other events, than it can by renting the ice to the Grizzlies.

While that may be the case, sometimes one has to be willing to comprimise if the situation calls for it, especially when the intangibles around having such a team in the community far outweigh the monetary aspects.

Let’s hope that the folks who control the purse strings at Westshore Parks and Recreation will understand that and come to an agreement with the Grizzlies that everyone can live with moving forward.

If you would like to offer your support to your local municipality for the Grizzlies, here are e-mails and phone numbers of the 5 local municipalities in the Westshore. As there are no doubt some Grizzlies fans in places like Victoria and Saanich, folks in those communities should also contact their local politicians as needed:

  • Westshore Parks and Recreation 250-478-8384
  • View Royal 250-479-6800
  • Colwood 250-478-5999
  • Langford 250-478-7882 (Emails need to go thru their website)
  • Metchosin 250-474-3167
  • District of Highlands 250-474-1773
Christian J. Stewart
Christian is a professional photographer and media professional based in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Currently working as the Assistant General Manager for Victoria HarbourCats Baseball Club, a Senior Contributing Editor and photographer at Independent Sports News (ISN) and operating his own freelance photography and media/pr company.