Rivermen’s future at Peoria Civic Center on thin ice

Published: Nov. 30, 2022 at 7:28 PM CST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

PEORIA (25 News Now) - Negotiations to renew the Rivermen’s contract to play at the Peoria Civic Center are in a tough place, according to an anonymous source familiar with the matter. It comes as the team plays through its final year of its lease with the facility, saying they hope the negotiation of a new lease extension will continue. But they add right now, the decision lies in the hands of the Civic Center.

According to Rivermen CEO Bart Rogers, the team asked for a new contract in late summer. He says the team was told it would have to wait until after this current season ends to begin renegotiations. In response, the team says, “We’re committed to putting a winning product on the ice, an affordable family product for people to continue to enjoy like they have the last 40 seasons.”

25 News also reached out to Civic Center sources for a comment on this story. They responded by saying “We don’t discuss any negotiations on ongoing contracts.” They add this is their stance regarding all business deals, not just with the Rivermen.

According to the anonymous source, the ice-making equipment at the Civic Center is in need of replacement. However, maintenance could take three months, which would mean closing down the arena. That would also mean no financial returns for the facility during that period. The source adds the Peoria City Council has considered using pandemic relief funds from the government to help with those payments in the meantime.

To re-do the ice, the Civic Center tells us it would be a minimum $2.5 million investment. Civic Center Finance Committee minutes listed from the past seven years on the Center’s official website don’t make any mention of the team’s ice or rink maintenance until October 2019.

In June, one report cites a representative with the Civic Center made a Rivermen ownership group representative aware of the needs for R-22, a chemical refrigerant known as Freon used in the ice-making process. However, the cost of R-22 has skyrocketed in recent years, as production began phasing out in 2013 due to EPA standards of ozone emissions. What used to cost as low as $1.50 pound twenty years ago can now go as high as $175, according to a refrigeration specialist.

The Rivermen have played in various hockey leagues in Peoria for 40 seasons, winning the Southern Professional Hockey League championship last season. Each season averages just over 30 home games at the Civic Center.

We’ve reached out to multiple sources for this story, including representatives with the City of Peoria, team sponsors, and corporate management for the Rivermen. Almost no one is willing to comment on the record at this time.