Dennis Waterman is leading the charge in an effort to put the Royals on solid financial ground for a possible return to Corner Brook.
The Corner Brook resident is among a group of local hockey fans interested in seeing the Royals return to the Pepsi Centre for competition in the provincial senior hockey league.
“We’re going to try to establish a group that will help Ross provide some secure financial footing to the team by taking on some projects and so on whereby we can assure him that there’s obviously a financial base here that he can work from,” Waterman said Thursday.
Waterman was approached by Royals general manager Ross Coates about being involved in a supportive role after Waterman had expressed an interest in lending a helping hand.
Waterman is calling his group of volunteer hockey fans a ‘booster club’ for the franchise who will operate as a separate entity from Coates and the hockey operations side of the team.
“We’ll be working hand in glove with Ross and his group to try and make sure we’re in sync with this, and whatever we do meets the full approval of the Royals organization as such,” he said.
Waterman was quick to point out Coates will ultimately decide what he does with his team when it comes to the venue and future viability, but the staunch supporter of the team who worked on previous Royals executives in the 1980s said it’s his hope that the team calls the Pepsi Centre home for the 2014-2015 season.
“Our goal is to provide the financial base so Ross can make the decision to move the team back,” he said, noting Coates hasn’t made a final decision on the future of the team.
Waterman expects to have a dozen community-minded individuals along for the ride as he works toward setting a plan in place to help the team. He expects things will heat up over the next weeks with the promotion of season passes and holding seats high on the priority list. He also said there will be other projects carried out with hopes of raising money for the team.
“We’re saying if you want to get them back there’s got to be a sense of commitment from the individual fans of the team,” he said.
“If we can sell enough season passes, do a promotion on it, then that will give them the financial base essentially to be there,” he added.
The Royals operated out of the Hodder Memorial Recreation Complex for the past two seasons. It’s no secret that the move up the highway wasn’t met with the strong fan support a lot of people expected and attendance hovered around 800 fans on a good night.
Waterman has been pleased with the positive feedback he’s received so far and figures 1,000 season passes would be a good benchmark to put the team in good shape moving forward.
“I’m confident we’re going to get the public support on it,” he said.
So, is he hoping it will all fall in place for this season?
“That’s the intent,” he said.
For his part, Coates said he’s intrigued at what he’s heard from Waterman’s group and said he’s willing to listen to anyone who’s committed to keeping the league going in the region.
He said the decision to move to Deer Lake was sheer survival and while the support was strong from the town’s business community and civic leaders, attendance remained a disappointment, something he admits is a league-wide issue.
He said he’s eager to see what comes of Waterman’s group before making a decision on where or if the team will suit up next winter.
Regardless of the location, Coates said the survival of the team ultimately comes down to luring more fans to the seats.
“They have to show up in the building and support the games,” Coates said. “I think that’s a lot of the focus on what the new group is about.
“I’m getting good vibes that people want the team back, it just comes down to if they’re going to put their money where their mouth is and support it.”