Owensboro, KY’s efforts to attract an ECHL franchise have come to an end, as ownership has passed on plans to renovate the Ownesboro Sportscenter.
The plans for Owensboro have been a tumultuous process that have ultimately affected two markets. After sitting out this season, the Evansville IceMen were to begin play in Owensboro and eventually move into a new arena that was proposed as part of a larger development. However, the plan for that arena was scrapped in July, with City of Owensboro officials citing the projected $25 million price tag as one of the obstacles.
Once that plan fell through, the IceMen’s only option in Owensboro was to renovate the Owensboro Sportscenter, a 5,000-seat venue that houses Kentucky Wesleyan basketball. The franchise has opted to go in another direction, as owner Ron Geary recently informed the city that a $6 million renovation of the Owensboro Sportscenter was not an option. More from WKU Public Radio:
The IceMen were located in Evansville, Indiana through the end of the 2016 season. In January, the team signed an agreement with city officials to move the team to Owensboro. The city had agreed to sell the team the Owensboro Sportscenter for $1 if the team would renovate it. But the contract was never finalized.
The obvious question from here is what happens to the IceMen, who were to return to the ECHL for the 2017-18 season. Evansville has sinced moved on from the IceMen, as the Evansville Thunderbolts of the Southern Professional Hockey League are set to take over as the Ford Center’s primary hockey tenant.
Beyond that, there have been some markets–including Portland, ME and Prescott Valley, AZ–that have expressed an interest in luring the ECHL, though it may take time for the league and the IceMen to sort out the next step.