Blackhawks to shepherd Rockford Icehogs



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Rockford BMO Harris Bank Center upgrade Image: ASM Global

The National Hockey League (NHL) team Chicago Blackhawks (US) officially purchased the American Hockey League (AHL) team Rockford IceHogs in a deal that keeps the team playing hockey in the City and paves the way for significant improvements to the Hogs’ home arena – BMO Harris Bank Center.

‘Rockford Register Star’ stated that the Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority, or RAVE, approved the sale recently.

The sale of the IceHogs still needs to be cleared by the American Hockey League and final documents signed.

The Chicago Blackhawks are a professional ice hockey team based in Chicago (US). They compete in the National Hockey League (NHL) as a member of the Central Division. They have won six Stanley Cup championships since their founding in 1926.

The 23,500-capacity United Center is an indoor arena on the Near West Side of Chicago, Illinois, United States. It is home to the Chicago Bulls of the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League (NHL), named after its corporate sponsor, United Airlines, which is based in Chicago since 2007.

The Rockford IceHogs are a professional ice hockey team based in Rockford, Illinois (US). They are members of the American Hockey League (AHL), having begun play in the League starting in the 2007-2008 seasons.

The 10,000-capacity BMO Harris Bank Center is a multipurpose arena located in downtown Rockford, Illinois. It is currently home to the AHL’s Rockford IceHogs hockey team.

RAVE Board Chairman Craig Thomas put in, “This has been a process that started back in August. And now this provides the opportunity for the Chicago Blackhawks’ organization to be an even bigger part of the City of Rockford. It’s going to be a phenomenal experience to come here as a fan.”

The ‘Rockford Register Star’ further stated that the Blackhawks will pay $11.8 million to acquire the Hogs and have agreed to continue to play at the BMO Harris Bank Center in downtown for the next 15 years. The 15-year lease is the longest in the AHL.

Remarked Blackhawks Owner and Chairman Rocky Wirtz, who was at the BMO Harris Bank Center when the deal was struck on April 7th, along with his son Danny, “Our affiliation was coming up, so we had to decide, ‘What are we going to do. So, I went to my son Danny and I said, ‘Let’s go farther than just an affiliation agreement. How can we be a part of the Rockford community, both on the business side…and on the hockey side?’”

The Hogs were in the fourth year of a five-year affiliation agreement with Chicago. Now, no new pact is required. The Blackhawks will pay $3 million upfront with the rest to be paid over nine years.

The Hogs facility will be totally rehabilitated. Shortly after the sale was formalized, the Governor of Illinois, JB Pritzker, flanked by other City, State and team officials, announced a $23-million multiyear revitalization project for the BMO Harris Bank Center, formerly known as the MetroCentre.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will provide $13 million in Rebuild Illinois capital funding toward the upgrades. An additional $10 million includes short- and long-term capital from RAVE and the City of Rockford, using funding from the sale of the team and other sources to make upgrades to the 40-year-old facility.

Added Rocky Wirtz, “The revamped BMO Harris (Bank) Center will benefit all residents and serve as an economic engine for the entire region.”

Some of the reconfiguring works already in the plans are: A new box office atrium entrance, an upgrade of the concourse, revamping the bathrooms, expanded seated options, a new videoboard and locker room upgrades.

Governor Pritzker informed that the project will generate more than 250 construction jobs and retain hundreds of existing positions in the arena. It will also generate millions in economic activity for the region.

Stated Governor Pritzker, “The Blackhawks have a proven track record of building winning teams and a premier entertainment destination. I am confident that the IceHogs and the BMO Center will flourish under their ownership, leadership and philanthropy. I am so proud to announce that we’re investing in a stronger future for the City of Rockford.”

Illinois Mayor Tom McNamara observed that the deal represents a collaborative effort to add teeth to the Blackhawks and IceHogs partnership and make a significant contribution and work for the betterment of the community – “These improvements will put us back on the map as a destination for sporting events, concerts and shows.”

’23 WIFR’ quoted Illinois State Senator Steve Stadelman as stating, “Not only is this great news for the IceHogs and Rockford area IceHogs fans, but this is big news for downtown hospitality businesses.”

Leaders said this is a significant investment for the community, potentially bringing in $382 million in economic activity for the State and region.

Remarked Sylvia Garcia, Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity Acting Director, “There are a lot of things happening here in Rockford.”

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