'A disappointing day': Abbotsford Heat leaving Fraser Valley
The money-losing Abbotsford Heat hockey team that’s cost taxpayers millions of dollars in subsidies is officially moving out of the Fraser Valley.
“This is a disappointing day for our franchise,” Team President Ryan Walter told reporters at a press conference Tuesday morning.
Abbotsford is paying $5.5 million to terminate its agreement with the American League hockey team five years into its 10 year deal.
That’s on top of the more than $5.1 million the city has spent over the Heat’s past four seasons to cover shortfalls in attendance at its pricey Abbotsford Entertainment & Sports Centre.
The team, which is a farm team for the NHL’s Calgary Flames, will leave following the Calder Cup playoffs.
Calgary Flames CEO Ken King said the move is a sad day for the Fraser Valley city.
Despite speculation the team will be transferred to Glen Falls, New York, King says the organization is still examining several options and hasn’t made a decision yet.
Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman calls the announcement “bittersweet” but the “best scenario financially” for the community.
“We've actually we actually managed to save the taxpayers about 50 per cent. Fifty cents on the dollar from what the projected losses would have been,” he said.
The arena will be renamed Abbotsford Centre. Banman said the facility will focus on amateur hockey, skating and other sports.
Attendance at Heat games has hovered around 2,500 people, roughly one third of the capacity at the $64 million arena.
Beth Dudka, who has been a season ticket holder since the team’s arrival in Abbotsford, said the community is responsible for the dismal attendance.
“This team was here for five years and nobody would come out and support it,” she said. “We didn't get support from the people in the community. They were too busy being upset about having to pay more taxes.”