A professional hockey team could begin playing at the Casper Events Center as early as fall 2013.
City Manager John Patterson said the city is in the process of bringing Central Hockey League play to the area, as community interest sparked the notion about three months ago.
“There are a number of people who love hockey and want to see professional hockey here,” he said.
At a monthly Casper City Council meeting on Friday, Patterson said the city is working to assemble an “investment board.” The board would purchase a team and install the ice rink. Patterson said the city wouldn’t contribute to the project but provides an ideal facility in the Events Center with enough space and seating.
“The hope is to put in an ice floor, and create some box seating and get a Jumbotron up there,” he said.
The construction would take less than 90 days, and the city has until the season’s start in October. Patterson said the improvements could be done during a slow time at the Events Center.
Patterson said there are several teams for sale in the Central Hockey League, and he expects the team will likely be from Texas.
The CHL is roughly comparable to baseball’s AA level in the hierarchy of minor league hockey. It will field 10 teams this season and add a team in St. Charles, Mo., for the 2013-14 season. Two teams are currently located in Texas: the Allen Americans and the Forth Worth Bramhas.
The closest franchises to Casper are the Rapid City (S.D.) Rush and the Denver Cutthroats.
“There probably will be a team that has closed operations elsewhere,” he said.
Councilman Maury Daubin expressed support for the plan while Councilman Keith Goodenough questioned its feasibility.
“I have trouble seeing how this is going to work,” Goodenough said.
Patterson said the ice would stay on the Events Center floor eight months a year and an inch-thick board would be placed over the ice when concerts and other events take place. The hockey team would play about 40 home games each season.
The Casper Ice Arena, located at the city recreation center, is currently the only ice rink in Casper, but Patterson said it does not have the capacity to host professional hockey. Officials in Rapid City are assisting in Casper’s efforts.
Patterson said agreement details should be determined within the next two months in order to offer hockey by next season.