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Local ownership for Bulls should be considered, Christopher says

Taso Christopher [1]

“Looking forward, I think we should look at a community-driven hockey club,” Belleville mayoral candidate Taso Christopher says. File photo by John Moodie, QNet News

By Shelden Rogers [2]

BELLEVILLE – If mayoral candidate Taso Christopher [3] wins the election next week, one of his goals will be a long-term deal with the Belleville Bulls [4].

Christopher told QNet News Wednesday that if he is elected, he will build a plan that would keep the team in Belleville for at least 10 to 15 years.

“These one- and two-year leases, they cannot continue. It’s really stressful on the brand, it’s stressful on the ownership, it’s stressful on the city, it’s stressful on the fan base, and it’s also stressful on the staff,” Christopher said.

He compared the franchise to a business, and said the customers should come first.

“Priority and Job 1 is customer service. It’s not Job 3; it’s not Job 2. Customer service is Job 1, and they’re struggling with that. They’re seeing that the seats are empty.”

The relationship between the team’s ownership and the fan base is a problem, he said.

“This out-of-town ownership – with the fan base, I firmly believe there is a disconnect. So looking forward, I think we should look at a community-driven hockey club.” The Bulls are currently owned by Gord Simmonds of Uxbridge, Ont.

Asked about concerns that have been raised about whether the condition of the Yardmen Arena might be a factor in the team’s future here, Christopher noted that the arena has had improvements.

“The facility has been upgraded in the last 10-plus years, from seating, from railing, from customer-service offices, from business offices, to coaches’ offices. From the parking lot, to additional parking spaces. We just spent $21 million on the Quinte Sport and Wellness Centre (where the Yardmen is located). I mean, it is the No. 1 recreational facility in eastern Canada.”

Spending money on the building won’t necessarily fill the seats, he said, “because it’s the same ownership, with the same disconnect with the fans.”

On the other hand, “if it’s a community-driven club, community-driven ownership, and community-driven management, I believe the community will embrace it.”

Building a plan to keep the Bulls in Belleville for a long time is not as complex as people might think, he said.

Either the city works with the ownership, makes needed upgrades and gets a long-term lease, or, “if the ownership doesn’t want to do a long-term lease, with the upgrades that we can feasibly do, then we have to look at Plan B, which is entertaining a community-driven hockey club.”


Video report: The Yardmen Arena, the Bulls, and the future [5]