Wenatchee Wild owners want to keep the team in Wenatchee but accused Town Toyota Center officials of trying to sabotage the hockey team with higher costs.
In a prepared statement that was posted on the team’s Facebook page today, the Wild management apologized to its fans for the public battle over the attempts to renew its contract to use the arena. The current five-year contract expires next month.
“The Wenatchee Wild want to remain in the valley as a long term tenant of the Town Toyota Center and want to support our community and nonprofits because of all the wonderful support they have given us over the last 5 years,” the statement reads.
The statement accuses Mayor Frank Kuntz, as spokesman for the arena’s board of directors, of making “misleading and derogatory comments” toward the Wild this week.
On Tuesday, the arena’s governing board refused to act on a proposed contract offered by the hockey team last Friday. The board had early offered its own contract, which team officials have refused to sign.
The two sides appear to be at an impasse on the contract issue and the arena is now searching for a new hockey team to use the facility, Kuntz said.
In its statement, Wild management refuted an accusation by Kuntz that they had repeatedly missed deadlines since January while working toward a new contract.
It states that team officials previously told arena officials that they would not agree to the contract being offered them and attempted several times to explain what they would like in the contract but were denied the opportunity.
The team was seeking a considerable reduction of its lease payments “in order for the Wild to survive,” the statement reads. It says that in 2010, the team hired a professional sports consultant to compare arena leases for hockey teams across the state. The study showed that the Wild’s lease for the Town Toyota Center was by far the most expensive lease of any hockey team in the state. The team currently pays $3,500 per game.
“Even though the Wild had previously stated that we needed relief from the current lease agreement, we instead were presented a lease that, while it lowered some costs, took income from the organization resulting in a net loss to the Wild of an additional $1 million over the term of the new agreement. For an organization that has lost money in three of the five years they have been a tenant at Town Toyota Center, this does not seem like good faith negotiating on behalf of the (the arena),” the statement reads.
It continues, “We believe that the PFD, Mayor Kuntz, (attorney) Peter Fraley, and (arena Manager) Mark Miller, have chosen not to deal fairly with the team and believe that their strong arm tactics are unprofessional and totally disrespectful of what the Wild has done in this community.”
In the statement, Wild management says the team has had a $1.5 million impact on businesses in the valley, has brought more than 500,000 fans into the arena, and has donated $400,000 to local charities, as well as taking part in school reading programs, a campaign against bullying. The team has also placed more than 50 of its players in college programs over the last five years and had two National Hockey League draft picks.
Michelle McNiel: 664-7152