BLOOMINGTON — The Central Illinois Flying Aces have pushed back their Grossinger Motors Arena opener to Nov. 10 after moving their preceding four home games to Peoria.
The change, announced Monday afternoon, will allow ongoing facility and rink upgrades at the city-owned downtown venue operated by VenuWorks to be completed before the fourth-year USHL club returns to its home ice.
“We have been working closely with VenuWorks and the city to ensure that the building is brought up to a safe standard that meets league expectations, player expectations and fan expectations,” said Flying Aces chief operating officer Brendan Kelly. “We’ve made some progress. Are we quite there yet? Almost.
“But we felt, consulting with VenuWorks, that this date gives us no doubt we can reach those goals and be prepared on all ends to open with confidence that everything is completed.”
As part of a six-game "Hockey in the Heartland" showcase in conjunction with the Peoria Rivermen, Central Illinois will play Dubuque at 3 p.m. Saturday as part of a single-admission doubleheader with the regularly-scheduled Rivermen game.
The Aces then will face Waterloo at 4 p.m. Sunday with general admission tickets priced at $5.
The same schedule will be in place Nov. 4-5, with the Aces playing a Saturday afternoon game against Des Moines — as part of a doubleheader with the Rivermen game — and a Sunday afternoon game against Chicago.
Kelly said Aces fans who purchased season tickets or mini-plans will receive free admission to all four dates.
“It’s a way to regionalize and expand our brand and our identity, and tell the story of our league and our franchise,” said Kelly, noting the Aces and Rivermen now are both owned by Bill Yuill and CSH International.
“I think it will be good for our boys,” said first-year coach Mike Watt, whose team visits Dubuque on Friday before the first Peoria game. “We’ve been pretty good on the road and this will just kind of be another road game mentality. We’ll take that same mentality into Peoria.”
With a new dasher boards system scheduled for December installation, work continues on temporary fixes to the existing boards, glass and stanchions.
“It’s one of those things where we want to make sure obviously that the arena is in proper shape with safety standards,” said Watt. “These things take time. It’s like any construction project or when you’re building a house; you have some minor setbacks that you have to deal with.”
The first Aces game in Bloomington will come against Youngstown, with Dubuque visiting the following night. Single-game tickets will go on sale at noon Friday.
“We’re excited to finally come home and show this team to this market, to Bloomington-Normal residents,” said Kelly. “When we get home here, it will be a good way to celebrate our new identity, new brand and repaired, improved building.”