With its current agreement approaching its expiration, the Stockton Heat (AHL) is seeking a short-term lease extension that could lay the groundwork for a long-term pact.
The Heat is currently playing at Stockton Arena on the final year of a five-year lease that began in 2015, and included a team option for an additional five years. Earlier this month, the Heat informed the city that the option would not be exercised, but the organization is working on a plan to remain in Stockton.
That approach involves negotiating a short-term lease in order to cover the 2020-21 AHL season, which would serve as a stopgap while Heat and city officials negotiate a longer arrangement. Heat chief executive officer Brian Petrovek explained the rationale behind this plan, noting that it would afford the organization and the city time to create a long-term deal that would include upgrades to the team’s practice facility and Stockton Arena. There is not an agreement between the two sides at this time, but city officials indicate a willingness to discuss a one-year extension and look ahead to a potential long-term agreement. More from The Record:
“The city is amendable to a one-year extension,” said Carrie Wright, Stockton’s director of economic development. “This will give us the time to evaluate and make sure we have good terms for a long-term lease moving forward.”
Petrovek said the Heat, which is the American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s Calgary Flames, had several reasons for wanting a new contract. The deal needed a “cleansing,” and that much of the language in the document still pertained to when the Stockton Thunder arrived 15 years ago. The Heat is seeking a fresh contract that includes updates to the practice facility at Oak Park Ice Arena and to Stockton Arena.
Improvements to Oak Park are at the top of the team’s list. The Heat is holding more than half of its practices at Oak Park because of the arrival of the Stockton Kings and other events at Stockton Arena, according to Petrovek.
“When the Kings came in here, (we said) bring it on. We want them to be successful, we’re going to be successful because they are successful, and vice versa,” Petrovek said. “But it took away the luxury of being (at the arena) 90 percent of the time for our practice. … That’s a major shift.”
The franchise arrived in Stockton after being relocated by NHL parent/team owner Calgary Flames, part of a larger trend that saw many western NHL organizations move their AHL clubs to the west coast in order to create a more favorable geographical situation. They replaced the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder, who called Stockton Arena home from 2005-2015.
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