Positive signs seen for pro hockey | VailDaily.com

Positive signs seen for pro hockey

Special to the DailyA Texas developer and the Arizona-based parent company of the Central Hockey League are partnering to bring a franchise to Eagle or Summit counties. They envision building an arena similar to one that's just been completed in Allen, Texas, which holds 7,500 people, has 26 luxury suites and is part of a 181-acre mixed-use development.

VAIL, Colorado ” Rick Kozuback is meeting politicians and businessmen. He’s checking out who lives in Eagle County, who visits here, and how much they make.

But most of all he’s looking for land here ” a place to put a $50 million to $60 million arena for a minor league hockey team.

Kozuback, president of the parent company of the Central Hockey League, is in town for a couple of days this week considering the prospects of a CHL minor-league franchise in Eagle County. His company owns the league, which signed a “letter of intent” with a Texas developer last month to bring a team to Eagle or Summit counties.

“Just kind of scoping out the area to see what might work,” Kozuback said. “Land is a premium here. It’s a lot different than some other areas where you can find a parcel of 60 or 80 acres that are sitting vacant. It’s not the same here.”

Kozuback, whose company is Phoenix-based Global Entertainment Corporation, said he looked at Magnus Lindholm’s land in Avon as well as Dobson Ice Arena in Vail. He also checked out Edwards and Eagle, he said. His envisioned arena would likely hold 5,000 people, and host other events, such as concerts, he said.

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The project would have to be a public-private partnership, with local government contributing to the arena’s financing, whether by issuing bonds or contributing tax revenue, said Mark Masinter of Dallas-based Open Hospitality Partner, a developer that is partnering with Global Entertainment Corporation on the project.

“I think the public will have to participate to make it work,” Masinter said.

“What you want to do is get a feel for what’s the climate of the area,” Kozuback said. “Is this something people want to embrace or are they saying this is not what we want to do? From preliminary initial discussions, … everything seems very positive.”

Kozuback said he hopes the hockey team would attract residents from Eagle, Summit, Routt and Garfield counties as well as local ski-vacation visitors.

“Particularly from a hockey perspective, in the wintertime, this area swells with a lot of folks who are coming in for a weekend or a week or two weeks of skiing, and when the ski hill closes and you’re finished with dinner, what else are you going to do?” Kozuback said. “Hopefully the building of a hockey component will provide something extra.”

The CHL is partnering with Open Hospitality Partners, a company that’s also trying to redevelop the Lionshead parking structure into condos, timeshares, hotels, a conference center, a transit center, stores, restaurants and public parking in a $900 million project.

In June, Open Hospitality Partner agreed to pay franchise fees ” generally around $1.2 million ” to secure the franchise.

Kozuback met with current and former Vail council members, Vail Recreation District board members, and local business people Monday at a cocktail party hosted by Masinter.

Global Entertainment Company would partner with Open Hospitality Group to build the arena. The Texas group would own the franchise.

The complex would need 4 to 18 acres, Kozuback said, adding that, ideally, the facility would be part of a larger development with which it could share parking ” about 1,800 spaces will be needed.

For instance, Broomfield Event Center, home of the Rocky Mountain Rage CHL team, is part of the 215-acre mixed-used project known as Arista, which includes stores and homes.

The Central Hockey League has 17 teams across the West, Midwest and South. The earliest Eagle County could see the puck drop on minor-league hockey is 2011, Kozuback said.

Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or estoner@vaildaily.com.

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