BLOOMINGTON —Several aldermen said they were excited that a new hockey team is coming to the city-owned U.S. Cellular Coliseum.
The Coliseum’s management group, Central Illinois Arena Management, announced Thursday that it has found new investors who are going to bring a new Central Hockey League team to the 7,500-seat, city-owned building.
During its May 23 meeting, the Bloomington City Council is expected to vote on a three-year lease with the new team owners, insurance executive Gary DelBuono of Boston and pharmaceutical executive Sandra Hunnewell of New Jersey.
Ward 7 Alderman Steven Purcell said he is glad to see the ownership seems to be financially stable, but he added that he is eager to read the new lease and contact.
The new contract will move the PrairieThunder out of the Coliseum after the team failed to renew its five-year lease, which expired last month at the end of the team’s season.
Ward 5 Alderman Jennifer McDade said she sees the new team and the new owners as another positive step by CIAM owner John Butler toward making the Coliseum pay for itself.
The hockey team is an anchor tenant that is responsible for filling about 38 dates at the Coliseum. The income generated from the team and those games is about 25 percent of the building’s roughly $4 million in annual revenue.
“I couldn’t be happier that this new organization is financially robust,” said Ward 6 Alderman Karen Schmidt of DelBuono, a 55-year-old senior vice president for Liberty Mutual, and Hunnewell, the chief executive officer of Tempus Medical Services.
Ward 8 Alderman Rob Fazzini agreed.
Earlier Fazzini and Schmidt were members of a committee Stockton created to provide oversight to the Coliseum. Fazzini, then a private citizen serving on the committee, and Schmidt agreed with CIAM in March 2009 to terminate the PrairieThunder’s lease at the Coliseum. CIAM was concerned about bills the team had unpaid at the time.
Mayor Steve Stockton nixed the move at the time and Thunder owners, led by Tim Leighton, were given a chance to turn the team around.
“This is what we tried to do two years ago,” said Fazzini. “We wanted the PrairieThunder to succeed but we also had to keep in mind what is best for the Coliseum.”
Ward 3 Alderman Mboka Mwilambwe said the new team is “fantastic news for the city,” but he was cautious that rebuilding team loyalty may take some time.