NANAIMO — The Nanaimo Clippers will be staying put, but more local support is needed to ensure the BCHL club remains in the harbour city long-term.
Clippers president and governor David LeNeveu announced at a Monday morning news conference the Nanaimo Clippers Hockey Society has been formed, following the buyout of a portion of a five-member out-of-town ownership group.
LeNeveu said a group of people have contributed at least $50,000 each towards the buyout and operations for the 2017-18 season. He would not reveal who those people are, only saying it's under 10 individuals.
He told NanaimoNewsNOW further significant donations are required to provide stability moving ahead.
“I'm looking to get between 10-15 people on board here locally to make sizable contributions to help the operation of this club moving forward, and then once the society is up and running successfully all of those contributions will be purchased back by the society.”
LeNeveu said the organization will transition to a non-profit society model over the next year and a board of directors will be established.
The upbeat news conference was in stark contrast to a sombre gathering March 16 where majority owner Ken Wagner announced he would likely relocate the team to another Vancouver Island city if local ownership could not be secured.
LeNeveu said he believes a society model is the right approach to take. He noted several groups have owned and sold the Clippers over the years and the private sector doesn't want to continue writing cheques to continue operating the team.
As for long-term sustainability and how a community owned club is a more sustainable option, LeNeveu said a “born in Nanaimo” strategy will gather momentum over time and serve as a local rallying point.
“Having it truly owned by the community and the society I think will have our most support in this rink and the most civic feeling in Nanaimo,” LeNeveu said. “I think that's what's important, that's what we're trying to accomplish.”
LeNeveu is confident a new lease deal with the City of Nanaimo will be struck shortly for the club to operate out of Frank Crane Arena.
Clippers business manager Andrea Trepanier said the team needs to “drastically” improve its dwindling season ticket and corporate sponsorship base. She said the goal is to have 1,200 season ticket holders for next season, noting last year there were just 473.
Trepanier noted their goal is for a 20 per cent jump in corporate sponsorship next season. Trepanier, one of the club's main new investors, said their budget will increase to $980,000 for the upcoming season to support higher staffing levels, including marketing efforts.
Clippers head coach Mike Vandekamp stressed he doesn't think the uncertainty of the Clippers lately will hurt the club's on-ice performance next season.
“We didn't lose anybody (players) over this. It's just been on hold for us the last couple of weeks. We've still been recruiting, we've still been trying to find new players,” Vandekamp said.
On Twitter: @reporterholmes
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