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Grizzlies to stay in Revelstoke; but ownership dispute clouds team's future
The Revelstoke Grizzlies will not be moving to 100 Mile House but the team's ownership is up in the air heading into a meeting of the KIJHL Board of Governors this Sunday in Castlegar.
There is also a chance the team could be made dormant if an agreement isn't reached between Grizzlies Sports Entertainment (GSE) and the Revelstoke Grizzlies Society as to who will run the team.
"It's not going to 100 Mile, I can tell you that," KIJHL president Bill Olhausen told the Times Review on Friday. "I've had call from the owner group that was involved with the Grizzlies and they stated they were going to operate this year. I also know the Society has been working with their legal people and I don't know the outcome of that."
An update on the situation was provided at a meeting of the society Thursday evening at the arena. President Mavis Cann and former coach Randy Quakenbush, who is assisting with the society's efforts to purchase the team, told the 22 people in attendance there was still a dispute over who owns the team – the society, which exercised its option to buy the team for $1 after it was sold to 100 Mile House; or GSE, which is now being controlled by Lew Hendrickson.
Hendrickson did not return calls for comment on Friday but said he would provide a statement on Monday. Michael Roberts, the former majority owner, signed over his shares to Hendrickson, Cann said. Roberts did not answer a call for comment and his voicemail box was full.
On April 1, GSE filed an application with the league to sell the team to a group in 100 Mile House. However, when the Society sold the team to GSE in 2006, a clause was put in the sale contract giving the society the right to buy the team for $1 if an application was made to move or fold the team before May 31, 2016. It also required the owners to put a $25,000 bond in a trust and that money would be handed over to the society in case it regained ownership of the team.
The sale of the team is no longer on the agenda for this Sunday's KIJHL meeting said Olhausen. "When it was sold to 100 Mile, nobody knew of any entanglement with the society," he said. "That went off the table as soon as there was a legal attachment."
It will be up to the ownership group and the society to come to an agreement on who will run the team," he added, and an agreement will have to be reached before the league's annual general meeting in Golden on June 9-10, when the league sorts out its schedule for the coming year, otherwise the team could be made dormant by the league.
"If nobody's going to take ownership and move forward and prove to me they can operate it, it will be done, it will sit there dormant," said Olhausen. "How can you operate something if you haven't got the funds to run it?"
Hendrickson will be representing the team at Sunday's KIJHL board meeting and Cann and Quakenbush will be there as spectators.
On Monday, April 30, the two sides met along with their lawyers in an attempt to negotiate an agreement, Cann said.
"It's going to be a push and shove between the lawyers," she said. "Lew still feels he owns the team."
She said Hendrickson offered to sell the society the team for $75,000, an offer the society rejected because it maintains it owns the team.
"We have legal proof we are the franchise owners," said Quakenbush.
Cann said the society offered to sell the team back to Hendrickson for $1 under the same conditions that were in place in the 2006 contract – a 10 year guarantee of keeping the team in Revelstoke and a $25,000 bond that would be placed in trust.
Cann said she had a letter, as did the league, indicating an application was made to move the team. She added the society exercised its right to buy the franchise for $1.
"For that dollar we start at ground zero and we get nothing but the KI rights and the players rights and the $25,000," she said.
Many of the questions brought up at the meeting surrounded the team's debt – notably who is responsible and whether or not the society should agree to take any of it on. Cann said it would be in the society's interest to help pay any outstanding debts in order to be good community partners, even if the society is not responsible.
The City of Revelstoke confirmed it is owed almost $23,000 in ice time fees; and there are bills owing to businesses in and out of Revelstoke.
The result could be that it ends up in court.
"It would be nice if we can work out something," said Cann.