Steel, City set to face off over new deal

It appears the City of St. Albert and the St. Albert Steel are about to face off over a new deal to keep the junior A hockey club at Servus Credit Union Place.

The Steel have until Feb. 28 to renew or extend the five-year deal that is currently in place. If that doesn’t happen, they and the City have until Aug. 31 to negotiate a new deal.

But Steel general manager and head coach Greg Parks said that renewing the deal is a non-starter as far as he is concerned.

“It can’t happen. There’s absolutely no way,” he said. “They’ve seen the books and everything. It makes absolutely no sense [to renew]. We’re open to anything.”

The main sticking point is the amount of revenue the club receives from selling advertising in the Performance Arena at Servus Place. The current deal sees the Steel receive 60 per cent of that revenue, with Servus Place getting 40 per cent. Parks, though, is pushing to have the club keep 100 per cent of the revenue, as he says is the case with other AJHL teams.

Parks also pointed out that some other AJHL teams receive considerable reduction in ice rental rates, have had dressing room remodeling costs forgiven, and even receive profits from concession sales.

St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse wasn’t willing to speculate much on what would happen before the City sits down with the club at a meeting scheduled before the Feb. 28 deadline.

“We’ve had some informal talks, but we’re going to have more of an official meeting here at the end of February,” Crouse said. “We hear the rumours just as you hear them, but what we need to do get an official [stance].”

But Parks said he’s just glad to have a chance to sit down with the City.

“Since 18 months ago, we’ve presented numerous possibilities that we think would be beneficial to both the Steel and the City — and Servus Place as well; a lot of these have come directly from Servus Place,” he said.

In fact, he said there hasn’t been much communication between the two sides for a long time.

“The last meeting we had about six months ago, we finally had the opportunity to meet with the mayor and two councillors, and the meeting lasted all of about five minutes,” Parks said.

The Steel wrapped up their 2011-2012 Alberta Junior Hockey League over the weekend with a pair of losses to the Grande Prairie Storm. They finished the year with only nine wins in 60 games, and were 25 points out of a playoff spot in the AJHL’s North Division.

Prior to this year, the Steel had made the playoffs in each of their first four seasons, but failed to advance past the first round.

The City said in a July press release that it currently gives approximately $289,000 in in-kind support to the team each year, including $213,000 in advertising space inventory to sell. The City also pointed out that it spent $215,000 upgrading the Steel’s dressing room to AJHL standards in 2007, an amount that is being paid back in instalments; as of July, the amount owing was $193,500.

 — GLENN COOK, St. Albert Leader