While all members of Elliot Lake City Council voiced strong support for the future of the city's OHA hockey team, they’ve taken umbrage at the club's plea for forgiveness of the $80,000 city loan approved four years ago. The team wants loan forgiveness by council as part of the solution to its chronic revenue shortfall. Or, failing that, team treasurer Brad Lees told councilors the Wildcats should at least get an extension of their loan repayment term to 10 years.
At Monday night’s Elliot Lake council meeting, councillors told the team delegation, including Lees and Coach Corey Bricknell, they want to see numbers tracking the Wildcat's efforts to add new revenue streams, for several years. Using the city’s own figures for the most recent year they have full figures for (2016), Lees noted that Elliot Lake receives a 15 million dollar a year revenue boost to the local economy by having the Wildcats in town. They play 27 home games, attracting players, team officials and friends and family.
Mayor Dan Marchisella told Wildcat officials that “failure is not an option.”. Councillor Luc Cyr told them, “The city needs a stronger voice on the Wildcat’s board.” He added Elliot Lake needs “a little more say, a little more control” Councillor Norman Mann said, “We need to move forward but with firm repayment guidelines” He added, “You have always had our cooperation and support.”
Councillors were united in their stand that there will be no forgiveness of a loan paid for with taxpayer dollars. Councillor Tammy VanRoon said, “We need to see a business plan. We need a clear meeting of the minds. I would like to see the figures at Elliot Lake’s next Finance and Administration Committee meeting.”
As a strong team supporter, Councillor Sandy Finamore billets Wildcats player Matt Pollard (#3). But she said, “The old plan didn’t work”. She suggested some of the team’s debt could be turned into various forms of city sposnorships. She noted, ”The culture in the city has changed.” She said people are telling her they want council to get behind the Wildcats and work with them to make the club financially viable. That positive vibe, said Finamore, is a reversal from the community feedback she was getting even a few years ago.
Mayor Dan Marchisella suggested the Wildcats’ financial future regarding debt to the city will likely be decided when city officials examine the team’s financial figures from the Junior ”A” club’s past season (2017-2018) at the Finance and Administration Committee meeting in August.