One of the sad realities that us sports fans have to live with is that above all, it’s a business. The people of Cornwall know that all to well with the Royals and the Aces and now folks in Belleville ON, know it too. Their OHL franchise, The Belleville Bulls, which has adorned the city since 1979, is leaving to fill a hockey void in Hamilton.
Below is the statement from the Club itself as they explain to the fans why they are leaving:
Over the past few months the ownership group of the Belleville Bulls Hockey Club have faced some very difficult decisions, ones that were not made lightly and took into consideration the important role the team plays in the community.
We have always held the position that in order for a small market OHL franchise to be successful in the long term, the ownership and City leadership must work together in trust and confidence. We believe the region can support an OHL team with the proper investment in a sports and entertainment facility that signals the community is ready to attract business to the marketplace.
For well over 20 years, ownership, past and present, have awaited a determination from City leaders on this critical question. In the past eleven years, our ownership team chose to work with the City rather than force a decision with threats of departure. The expiration of the arena lease at the end of this season teamed with no commitment to a broadly supported improvement plan puts our ownership and the OHL in an untenable position.
With increasing costs, and a sub-par facility we see no viability in this context. This is not an option for us. While some suggest that local ownership could unlock the key to success, it is completely unlikely that the OHL would entertain the transfer or sale of the Club if the team was to stay in the same facility.
With that in mind, earlier today, the OHL Board of Governors approved the transfer of ownership of the Belleville Bulls Hockey Club to a new majority owner and a location transfer of our franchise to Hamilton, Ontario, beginning next season.
We recognize that our decision will be a tremendous disappointment for the community, our season ticket holders, and for hockey fans and community groups who have truly recognized what OHL hockey means. We couldn’t have asked for a better group of billet families, education partners or supportive business partners and sponsors that have assisted us year after year without fail. Active and responsible media partners and personalities have helped tell our story across the region for so many years. We have 34 years of Bulls alumni to thank for helping create memories for so many.
We hope that the Bulls fans across our community, despite their disappointment, will support our present team of young Bulls in their efforts to reach and succeed in the 2015 OHL playoffs. We know that our players will play in the spirit of all Bulls’ alumni to make these next several weeks as exciting as possible under the circumstances.
I’d love to see OHL Hockey back in Cornwall, but it’s going to take deep pockets and fans willing to trust and buy tickets for it to happen. ~Bill