Progressive Auto Sales Arena. August 15, 2016 photo by Melanie Irwin

Arena Entertainment Dispute

Lack of available ice time may have prevented the Progressive Auto Sales Arena from hosting an event in early December.

Brad Jones, of Jones Entertainment Group, approached the city about bringing the show “Thunder From Down Under” to Sarnia on December 2, but the venue was already spoken for.

The Lambton Junior Sting are hosting four games at the arena with teams from London, Windsor and Huron-Perth.

Jones says he was told the committment would have meant a loss of $1,900 for the city, a far cry from the $40,000 in revenue he believes the event could have generated. He believes the ice committment is just a small part of the problem.

“I didn’t get a real good feeling out of this, it seemed to me like it was a couple city employees that didn’t want to work too hard and bring this event in,” says Jones. “We were going to make it as easy as possible but we were told no, because they didn’t want to displace a few hockey games in the afternoon.”

After hosting the same event in similar markets across Canada, he doesn’t understand why the city couldn’t be more accommodating.

“If I’m a suite holder or I’m the company that holds the right to food and beverage at the arena, what would I think when I find out the city turned down a deal like this, it’s bad business,” says Jones.

Director of Parks and Recreation Rob Harwood says with teams coming from out of town it doesn’t make sense to move the games and the lack of available ice time limits their options to shuffle teams around. He says they’re open to hosting events, if it’s the right fit.

“Since we closed Germain Arena, that building has become more of a sporting event location. We have had several conversations to bring events to that location, unfortunately in those cases we’ve been beat out by venues in London and Windsor but we are always open to discussions,” says Harwood.

Jones says he offered to cover costs of set up, tear down, and the cost of ice times, but even then the city wasn’t willing to negotiate. He says they even offered to let the city keep the ice rentals until noon on the Saturday and keep most of the glass in place so things could be returned to normal for the Sarnia Sting home game Sunday afternoon.

Even with some of those costs covered, Harwood says they didn’t think the event would have brought in as much money as was being proposed.

“We felt it was ambitious attendance, food and beverage numbers considering it’s also the same night as the Santa Clause parade downtown,” says Harwood. “At this time we don’t feel like it’s a good fit but would be open for discussions about future events.”

Jones says their most recent show in Stratford was sold out in a hour.