Join Date: May 2002
CHL Looking to Expand into Prescott
Pro hockey part of Prescott Valley's expansion plans
Republic Flagstaff Bureau
Jul. 20, 2004 12:00 AM
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Back a quarter of a century ago, when this now rapidly growing town was little more than a flashing light and convenience store, the locals along Arizona 69 in Prescott often made it the butt of all jokes.
They would say things like the only sport in these parts was figuring out how many hunting licenses there were for the local antelope and deer herds.
But Prescott Valley, which has its sights set on becoming the regional business center for northern Arizona, is making solid inroads toward landing what would be only the state's second professional sports franchise outside the Valley. The Tucson Sidewinders, the Diamondbacks' AAA farm club, is the other.
Town leaders say there is a better than 50 percent chance now that the town will be awarded a AA Central Hockey League franchise and will begin building an $18 million to $20 million arena in the core of Prescott Valley by mid-September.
The arena, which would anchor Prescott Valley's new master-planned downtown area, also would be used for concerts, children's shows, home shows and, possibly, an Arena Football League franchise, town officials said.
"This whole thing appears to gaining some serious momentum," said Larry Tarkowski, acting town manager of Prescott Valley. "The impressive thing about it is that it is going to be riding on the back of private business. We're not going to be floating (municipal) bonds to do it, like the CHL has done in their other 17 markets."
Rick Kozuback, president and chief executive officer of Global Entertainment Inc. of Phoenix, which operates the CHL, is quick to add that Prescott Valley has a 1 percent sales tax that could be used to help construction of the about 90,000-square-foot arena. The venue would seat about 4,000 for hockey games.
"I think there will have to be public financing in some way," Kozuback said. "Things are going very well, but there is still a lot of work to do. But we think this is an excellent site for a team because it's in a rapidly growing area with a lot of enthusiasm."
Brad Fain, a co-owner of the Fain Signature Group, which owns the 7-acre parcel on which the arena would be built, said the town likely would be responsible ultimately for less than a third of the money for the arena's construction.
"The town has to do its part to make this happen, but one of its main roles will be to act as backup to get lender security," Fain said, adding that a local sales expo will be held July 29 to examine such issues as naming rights, luxury seats and banners within the arena.
Kozuback said that the far-flung CHL expects to add teams in Youngstown, Ohio, and Monterrey, Mexico, by the start of the 2005-06 season. It also has been looking closely at adding a team in Grand Junction, Colo., but no timetable has been set.
The CHL has teams in four divisions, with Oklahoma City; Fort Worth; Bossier City, La.; and Memphis in the Northeast; and Albuquerque; Topeka, Kan.; Wichita, Kan.; and Windsor, Colo., in the Northwest.The league also has eight teams in Texas including Austin, Laredo, Corpus Christi and Rio Grande Valley in the Southeast and Amarillo, Odessa, San Angelo and Lubbock in the Southwest.
Kozuback said the league began looking at smaller markets for expansion after the success of the Rio Grande Valley franchise, which is in Hidalgo, Texas, near McAllen.
"They averaged more than 5,000 fans a game in their first year, and we've also had a lot of luck there in co-promoting concerts like Alan Jackson, Aerosmith, Luis Miguel and Gloria Estefan," Kozuback said.
Kozuback described the CHL as "very much a development league" with players primarily in the 21-26 age range. He said that nine of the 17 CHL teams have affiliations with the AAA American Hockey League. Each of the teams plays a 64-game schedule with 32 home dates, Kozuback said.
"Almost all of the arenas have either a team in Arena Football League II or in the Extreme Football League," Kozuback said.
He said the league had been pushing hard to expand to the West, "and we're very excited by the Prescott Valley area."
"It's a growing, vibrant place, and they can focus downtown development around the arena," Kozuback added.
Prescott earlier this year rejected a CHL franchise, saying it wanted to float bond money for vital services, like the recent deal to buy a water ranch.
Kozuback said the arena would take about 1½ years to build, and "we want to present the whole picture before the Prescott Valley Town Council by mid-September."
Prescott Valley Mayor Richard Killingsworth said he hopes that Prescott and Chino Valley also will consider taxing mechanisms for the arena because "this is a tri-cities sports team."
"There's a huge amount of interest in this project, more than anything I've seen in my 16 years here," Killingsworth said. "Prescott Valley will be more than willing to help with the debt service, and I think we can make this happen and satisfy everyone."