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Dean MacDonald lands ECHL expansion franchise in Iowa
If nothing else, Newfoundland Growlers owner Dean MacDonald and his chief operating officer for hockey, Glenn Stanford, have increased their odds of winning another Kelly Cup ECHL championship.
That’s because MacDonald and his Deacon Sports and Entertainment company, which operates the Growlers, was announced Thursday as the new owner of an ECHL expansion franchise in Iowa.
Couple that with another expansion ECHL franchise in Trois Rivieres, Que. — MacDonald is currently in the process of clewing up an agreement that would see his company hold entertainment rights for a new 4,700-seat rink in the Quebec city, in addition to the hockey team — and Deacon Sports and Entertainment will own and operate three different ECHL franchises.
The Iowa and Trois Rivieres franchises likely won’t be on the ice this season, but rather the 2021-22 hockey campaign.
“Iowa is a wonderful opportunity for us,” MacDonald said. “We were approached by them, I think, because of our reputation, and obviously Glenn’s experience, and the success of the Growlers.
“They approached us and asked if we would consider putting a franchise in the brand new arena?”
Stanford was at the helm of the AHL’s St. John’s Maple Leafs for 14 years, St. John’s IceCaps for six and Hamilton Bulldogs for five, along with the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads for two.
The new Iowa arena is the 5,100-seat Xtreme Arena in Coralville, an Iowa City suburb. It’s near the University of Iowa and its student population of 31,000.
The arena also has a field house for basketball and volleyball (the university’s women’s volleyball team is nationally-ranked). According to its website, the facility has the flexibility to host a number of athletic events and tournaments, from wrestling and basketball to indoor football and soccer, in addition to concerts and special events such as graduation ceremonies.
It is owned by ArenaCo, a non-profit community development corporation, separate from the city of Coralville.
“It’s a sports crazy town,” Macdonald said, “and this facility we’re going in is a beautiful arena. It’s one of the most advanced facilities I’ve ever seen.”
MacDonald said the ECHL does not have a problem with an individual owning three different teams.
“There has been someone before who had three teams in the league,” he said. “We’ve had lots of discussions with the league. We’re in some pretty deep discussions in Iowa with some local partners there, and maybe taking out some local partners in Trois Rivieres.
“By not starting play until next season, we have time to work on the issues of ownership and ensure everyone in the league is happy. I think the general consensus is people are happy to see the league expand and expansion to where there is a real good hockey base.”
Iowa has a long history of minor pro hockey, going back to the Central Hockey League. Des Moines, Iowa, is home to an American Hockey League’s Iowa Wild, minor league affiliate of the NHL’s Minnesota Wild. The state also houses teams in the United States Hockey League, a Tier II U.S. junior hockey league that is a breeding ground for NCAA players.
Next to Xtreme Arena in Coralville is a large park, housing an amphitheatre. MacDonald has an agreement in principal that will see Deacon running the amphitheatre on an exclusive basis.