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New lease agreement with Guelph Storm comes with a price tag

Storm ownership says it no longer has the league's worst revenue-sharing deal
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The Guelph Storm and City of Guelph have reached an agreement to keep the Storm in town for at least another 10 years, but it comes with a price tag.

A new 10-year lease agreement for use of the Sleeman Centre will cost Guelph taxpayers roughly $5 million in terms of a hit on its operating budget over its duration.

The $500,000 annually comes in the form of a change in the revenue sharing agreement on things such as tickets, parking, concessions and ice rental.

"It's all based on revenue percentage sharing and that's our best approximation based on previous years' history," said Deputy CAO Colleen Clack of the $500,000 hit on the city's operating budget.

That number could be lower if the team goes deep into the playoffs.

Of course if the Storm were to leave Guelph, the city would lose the associated revenue from the Sleeman Centre's anchor tenant.

"We've changed the percentages in terms of that revenue sharing. We've always had revenue sharing back and forth, we're just simply adjusting the percentages," Clack said.

Storm co-owner Rick Gaetz said the previous arena lease, which was signed by a different ownership group 16 years ago, was currently one of the worst in the 20-team league.

Now, he said, the team has a "fair deal."

"We had a very difficult lease agreement that we inherited and it reflected a different time in the league," said Gaetz, who owns the team with Rick Hoyle and Scott Walker.

"This puts us squarely in the middle. We were very honest and up front, we said we weren't looking for the best deal (in the league), but we can no longer have the worst deal. It just doesn't work" Gaetz said.

"We were at the bottom of the heap and it was very hard to make it work. You want dedicated owners, but you shouldn't be hockey philanthropists."

The new deal kicks in this season/.

The current lease agreement was signed when the Sleeman Centre opened in 2000. It was set to expire in 2020 and the team approached the city to start negotiating a new lease roughly two years ago.

Clack, who was heavily involved in the negotiations, said that rather than wait until the new lease expired and potentially be in a position of risking losing the team or negotiate at a much higher rate, council decided to negotiate a new agreement now.

"Council's direction to us was 'renegotiate a new agreement that gets us 10 years of stability,'" Clack said.

"Ultimately council made the decision that they were willing to make an investment in order to get us a long-term 10-year agreement."

The new deal expires after the 2026-2027 season.

Mayor Cam Guthrie said the team brings a myriad of benefits, both financial and social to the city and its businesses as well as being an anchor tenant to the arena.

"We are a landlord and the Storm is a tenant. In this competitive market, with all the economic benefits and spin-offs and community pride and spirit, this is where we landed with something fair for both parties," Guthrie said.

"There's a reason many other municipalities are knocking on the door of OHL teams. They're an investment."



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Tony Saxon

About the Author: Tony Saxon

Tony Saxon has had a rich and varied 20 year career as a journalist, an award winning correspondent, columnist, reporter, feature writer and photographer.
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