The Chicago Blackhawks (NHL) announced a plan to buy the Rockford IceHogs (AHL) and unveiled a $23-million Rockford arena renovation along with the city and the state.
The project comes from the City of Rockford, the Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority (RAVE) and the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), which would provide $13 million in Rebuild Illinois grant funding, acting as the foundation for an overall $23 million in capital improvements to the 40-year-old facility. Another $10 million includes short and long-term capital from RAVE and the City of Rockford, enabling savings from the sale of the team and other financing sources to make upgrades to the BMO Harris Bank Center.
Subject to AHL approval and finalization of legal documentation, the Blackhawks will pay $11.8 million for the purchase of the franchise from Rockford. RAVE has committed $1 million directly from the sale of the team to the building improvements. The private operator of the facility, ASM Global, will also work with RAVE to finance a portion of the BMO Harris Bank Center renovation master plan. The renovation, when combined with the sale of the team to the Blackhawks and their long-term commitment to the facility, is estimated to generate $382 million in net spending in Rockford and retain 358 jobs over the next 15 years.
In buying the IceHogs, the Blackhawks become the 21st NHL team to own their AHL affiliate.
The Rockford arena renovation work will include infrastructure improvements, improved audio-visual and digital technology, enhanced guest experience and concession areas, expanded concourses, space for sports betting, and other modernized customer amenities. Additionally, the capital plan will upgrade BMO Harris Bank Center’s back-of-house facilities.
“The Rockford IceHogs have played a critical role in our franchise’s success, and today, the IceHogs officially become a part of the Chicago Blackhawks family,” said Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz and CEO Danny Wirtz in a press statement. “Not only is this an exciting opportunity from a hockey perspective, but in partnership with the City of Rockford and the State of Illinois, we are reinvesting in Illinois to generate positive economic as well as philanthropic impact through our Chicago Blackhawks Foundation, further solidifying the team’s standing in the community.”
“Not only will this $13 million investment create over 250 construction jobs, retain hundreds of existing positions at the arena, and generate tens of millions in economic activity for the region – but we’re also opening the door for the Chicago Blackhawks to formally purchase their AHL affiliate, securing the IceHog’s long-term presence in Rockford,” said Governor JB Pritzker. “By leveraging our historic Rebuild Illinois capital plan, we have scored a winning combination for Illinois, for Rockford, for the Chicago Blackhawks, and for the Rockford IceHogs – and just as importantly, for all the fans who are excited to come back to the BMO to cheer on the hometown team.”