Operating an amateur, community-owned sports team is no easy task, either financially or from a volunteer labour perspective.
So when we heard the Victoria Grizzlies were in the middle of a tough lease negotiation with West Shore Parks and Recreation for the team’s use of The Q Centre – one that if it doesn’t go the Grizzlies’ way could spell disaster – our first thought was to hope this proud junior hockey franchise isn’t being kicked when it’s down.
The Grizzlies, similar to junior football’s Rebels, have worked hard to connect with the West Shore community that is its primary fan and financial support base. We like that the club takes its role seriously not simply as an entertainment vehicle for hockey fans in Greater Victoria, but as an organization helping produce quality young men and provide them with an opportunity to audition for college scholarships. It reminded the public this week that eight players from last year’s team have inked deals.
This week, team representatives and West Shore Parks and Recreation officials remained tight-lipped about the situation, saying negotiations are ongoing, with both also voicing optimism that a mutually beneficial deal can be reached. The Grizzlies are said to pay among the highest rents in the B.C. Hockey League, albeit playing in the nicest building.
Should they continue to play at The Q Centre, the financially struggling Grizzlies have to find a way to draw more fans to remain viable. That much is certain. Compounding the need to get a lease deal done, however, is the effect losing one of its two high-profile tenants would have on West Shore Parks and Recreation, for which The Q Centre is its highest-profile sports venue.
With the Western Lacrosse Association’s Victoria Shamrocks the only other tenant putting a significant number of people in the 3,000-seat arena – and they play a far shorter season – it’s imperative that West Shore Parks and Rec get creative to help keep the Grizzlies in Colwood.
The team played 32 dates at The Q Centre last year, averaging in the neighbourhood of 700 fans, or a little over 21,000 for the season. Unless West Shore Parks and Recreation plans to host a dozen or so rock concerts or paid admission gatherings of other kinds, it would definitely miss the Grizzlies’ presence.
This scenario has the potential to repeat itself next year, when the Shamrocks have to renegotiate their lease. We hope the powers that be will think “big picture” en route to finding a solution that works for their community.