Fans dreading prospect of losing Rivermen

Published: Dec. 5, 2022 at 7:27 PM CST
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PEORIA (25 News Now) - Contract negotiations between the Peoria Rivermen and the Peoria Civic Center are at a standstill, with the team playing its last season under the current lease agreement between them. Now, as the franchise looks to win two championships in a row, fans are fighting a different kind of battle off the ice.

That fight is lead by fans like Wade Lovin, a Tremont resident for whom the Rivermen have held a special place in his heart his entire life. It was the first team he supported growing up, going to games with his dad who has since passed. It’s a tradition he wants to preserve in memory of his father.

“It’s something to pass on to my boy, I want to be able to take him to Rivermen games, my grandchildren to Rivermen games. It’s something very near and dear to me, for sure.”

When developments emerged regarding the difficulties for the team to continue their time at the Civic Center, Lovin started a change.org petition looking for others who shared his sentiment: keep the team in Peoria. As of Monday, close to a thousand people had already added their names, with the page up for less than a day.

Lovin says if the team left, the area would lose an important part of its identity.

“To see something that’s been here for nearly 40 years disappear on a simple contract negotiation, I just don’t feel it’s fair to the organization or to the fans.”

The cause has also garnered support from fans of other SPHL teams. Lovin says one supporter of the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs even offered to make signs to distribute to fans in support of the cause.

“It’s like a second family,” says Lovin of the fanbase. “They know your name, everybody’s there to have a good time.”

Other fans say the cost to retain the team is well-known, including the necessity of repairing the in-house ice rink. The current ice plant has posed problems large enough that even the fanbase recognizes the need to fix it. Last week, the Civic Center told 25News that could cost have a minimum price tag of $2.5 million for proper repairs.

Jeremie Allen was one of the fans who signed the petition, now circulating on fan Facebook pages online. A Rivermen supporter since the early 90s, and a season ticket holder since the 2000s, he shares similar sentiments with Lovin. For him, it’s a generational tradition that the city is turning its back on.

“Hockey fans are a family, we consider ourselves a family. So if you take that away from us, what are we going to do during the winter?”

“We just want to get the message across that we want the Rivermen to stay in hockey for another 40 years,” adds Lovin.

Last week, sources with the Civic Center told 25News, “We don’t discuss any negotiations on ongoing contracts.” They added this is their approach with all business deals, not just with the Rivermen.

Each season averages around 30 games on home ice.