The man who is working to resurrect hockey in Columbus now has a five-year lease with the Civic Center, all that remains is to secure a franchise with the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Columbus Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a lease with Burn Entertainment LLC. New York City businessman Fidel Jenkins has proposed bringing a SPHL team back to Columbus to replace the Columbus Cottonmouths, who ceased operations in June after 21 seasons.
Jenkins has applied to the league for the franchise and paid an application fee, but has not been approved, SPHL Commissioner Jim Combs said. Jenkins has until Aug. 1 to meet financial obligations to the league and secure a lease with the Columbus Civic Center, Combs said last month after Jenkins came to Columbus, met with potential advertisers and sponsors and outlined a business plan for a team he will call the Columbus Burn.
Cottonmouths owner Wanda Amos continues to own the name and logo rights to the Cottonmouths and did not sell those to the league when she sold the franchise rights for Columbus. Those franchise rights are now owned by the league, Combs said.
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Prior to approving the lease, which is nearly identical to the former lease held by the Cottonmouths, Councilor Judy Thomas questioned awarding a lease to an owner who has not secured a SPHL franchise.
“To get a team he has to have a lease with us, so it is kind of a Catch-22,” Thomas said. “But I assume if the agreement is now forthcoming, then the lease will be null and void.”
Civic Center Director John Dorman said the league wanted a lease in place before it acted on Jenkins’ ownership application.
“It is kind of like a dog chasing its tail,” Dorman said.
Jenkins was not present for the council vote on Tuesday. On Monday, he said he was still working to get the franchise.
“I still have to go back and do a few things with the SPHL,” he said. “I have missed a target date.”
Jenkins would not elaborate on what the target was that he missed. Combs, also reached on Monday, would not comment about the missed deadline.
The Burn will not play in the 2017-18 SPHL season. Jenkins and Combs have said they plan to bring the franchise back for the 2018-19 season.
The lease is a 23-page agreement that will charge Burn Entertainment $3,000 per home game.
The lease also gives permission to the new hockey franchise to upgrade the video scoreboard and sound system in the arena at the owner’s expense. When the improvements are completed, Burn Entertainment will get a $1,000 per game credit against the $3,000 per game payment. The per game credit will remain in place until half of the capital improvement costs are recovered.
The team will get office and locker room space in the Civic Center.