SALISBURY – Officials in Wicomico County are partnering with a sports consulting firm to initiate the first steps in bringing an ice hockey league to the Wicomico Youth and Civic Center, two months after a study determined there was little demand for one in Worcester County.
At a press conference Friday, Wicomico County Executive Bob Culver and Jim Calpin, president of Paramount Sports Services, shared plans to bring an ice hockey franchise to the Wicomico County complex by October of 2018 or the year after.
The team, Culver said, would play at the Civic Center 25 to 30 nights out of the year on an ice rink that will lie beneath a movable flooring unit of sorts. The goal, he added, is to ensure all other events can utilize the center’s main arena.
“This is going to be a bonus to the Civic Center,” he said. “It’s not like we’re going to lose any bookings.”
The announcement comes two months after an impact study found an unfavorable climate for an indoor sports arena and potential ice hockey league in Worcester County. At a Worcester County Commissioners meeting in February, an official with the consulting firm that conducted the study explained that the fluctuating population and limited market could not sustain events that would occur in the proposed complex.
When asked about the failed attempts to bring an ice hockey league to Worcester County, Calpin answered that the money needed to build an arena would cost the state millions of dollars. What makes this situation different, he said, is that the Civic Center is an existing structure with ample opportunity and consistent community base that has the disposable income and interest to partake in ice hockey events.
“We feel that it’s a very good fit to have hockey here in this arena,” he said.
Culver explained that the Civic Center has recently undergone renovations to paint the rooms and add new seats in the arena. Yet the complex’s biggest draw, he said, was the recent addition of wine and beer sales.
“This was a forerunner for one of the reasons we have never had some of the acts that other bigger, larger venues have had,” he said.
While Calpin praised the facility, he added that money would be needed to add the rink and other improvements to the arena. But he said it would still be a fraction of the cost to Worcester County’s failed proposals for a new indoor arena.
“Pretty much everything is here,” he said.
Calpin said he has been working to establish a team in Wicomico County for more than 13 years, after a local community leader reached out to him in an effort to bring an ice hockey league to Delmarva.
“It has taken a lot of hard work to get to this first step,” he said.
The next step, Calpin explained, is to select a league. At this time, Paramount Sports Services are looking at two prospective leagues, the Southern Professional Hockey League and ECHL. The first has more of a regional model, with teams located near coastal communities. The second has teams across the nation.
Salisbury University student Brad Geyer said he and two other came to the press conference to represent the school’s ice hockey team.
A player himself, Geyer expressed his interest in having an ice rink located near the budding team. In recent years, he explained that the team has grown from 14 players to 28.
“The program is growing and we’d definitely like to partner with the Wicomico Civic Center,” he said.
In making good on their word, both Culver and Calpin signed an agreement that authorizes Calpin to bring forth an ownership group and ice hockey franchise, though no timeline has been set.
“We don’t know at this point,” Calpin said. “We have to wait until everything falls into place with regards to the time.”