Grizz roll out new long-term strategy
Tuesday, Nov 28, 2017 06:00 am
The Olds Grizzlys ownership group and staff have a new longer-term strategy for the junior A hockey club to win on and off the ice.
On the day more details of the group’s plan came to light last week, the team was in last place in its division and the club still saddled with some outstanding debt.
Drowning in debt, the club nearly folded in the summer before Friends of the Grizzlys was given approval by the AJHL to take over ownership.
Just as the season is still young – 11 out of 60 regular season games played so far – so too is the plan for sustainability.
Team staff and the board executive apprised council members on progress in developing a three-year plan during a town policies and priorities committee meeting on Nov. 20.
Grizz business consultant Mike Bagshaw said the club is starting to see more people coming out to games.
“And one of the keys to that is obviously getting a team on the ice that’s going to win. Winning solves a lot of things at a lot of levels and that’s also going to take time. We’re not going to sit here and tell you that we’re going to go win the championship this year -- quite frankly probably not next year. It’s kind of a three- to five-year plan, no different than trying to get people back to watch the games,” said Bagshaw.
The ultimate goal is to make the Grizzlys not just an Olds team, but South Central Alberta’s team, he said.
Olds is already a minor hockey hub that draws the best of the best players from the area, explained Darcy Dallas, president of Friends of the Grizzlys.
Through staged skill development and support, the Grizzlys are eyeing area players moving up through minor hockey to fill the majority of their roster, not players from around Alberta or other provinces as has become commonplace.
“So we are trying to get local which will bring up the fan base, which will bring up the advertising, which will bring up everything so the team is financially sustainable,” said Dallas.
Olds Minor Hockey Association is a minority owner in the group of 15 -- that also includes businesses and alumni -- that took over the Grizzlys from the Olds Sportsmen's Recreational Association.
It, and all minor hockey and ringette association players between Red Deer and Airdrie are being offered three free sessions with a proposed skills development business opening in Olds in the new year. The Grizzlys Give Back program is funding the sessions.
“As Darcy (Dallas, board president) said, if we’re going to try to develop kids from a young age to an old age to be a Grizzly at some point, we’re going to invest in them as well,” said Skillz SSC president Jeff Atkinson, who was also in attendance at the policies and priorities meeting.
Skillz Skating and Shooting Centre (SSC) has partnered with the Friends of the Grizzlys to act as an operational support for the team.
The plan will see SSC establish a physical training facility as well as the development of spring/summer programs, with the potential long-term goal of establishing a hockey academy centred in Olds serving South Central Alberta.
The Friends of the Grizzlys’ pitch to the policies and priorities committee included a request for increased access to arena ice in the spring, possibly until the end of May with an eye on potential summer ice.
Atkinson said he’d like players to join a spring junior club league that would include the possibility of hosting tournaments.
Doug Wagstaff, the town’s chief operating officer, said the costs of keeping ice in longer past the early-May mark would be about $2,500 per month and could be easily recouped through bookings.
The challenge, he said, is competing uses of the main arena with non-ice users like lacrosse. The auxiliary arena was not designed to keep ice in warmer weather, he said.
The auxiliary ice is taken out at the end of March while the main ice comes out between the first and second weekends of May depending on scheduling commitments.
“We have our program designed, they’re deliverable, we’re going to go forward regardless if we extend past (that). Maybe the discussion for that is years forward, I’m not sure,” said Atkinson.
The Friends of the Grizzlys’ pitch to the policies and priorities committee also included requests for additional TV screens in the Sportplex’s concourse and the ability to sell naming rights for the facility.
The presentation was accepted for information.