The Augusta RiverHawks announced Tuesday they will not be playing next season, the final straw in a situation that kept the minor league hockey team’s future on ice for months.
The RiverHawks are taking a leave from league play for one season, according to a release from team owner Bob Kerzner. He said he hopes something will be done to bring hockey back to Augusta the following year, and he plans to retain his franchise.
The RiverHawks have not received positive information on the status of replacing the ice system in James Brown Arena, which broke with eight home games left in the season and caused the ice to melt. The team was forced to play at Augusta Ice Sports Center, limiting attendance to season-ticket holders and sponsors.
Kerzner said he was told insurance would not cover the cost of the system, meaning another process will be needed to determine whether it will be fixed.
A May 12 deadline was given by the team to arena management in late March or early April, according to the release.
Kerzner said Tuesday his team couldn’t wait on arena management or the city to make a decision on replacing the broken ice system. The RiverHawks had a deadline of Tuesday to let the Southern Professional Hockey League know whether they would return this coming season.
“We’re going to entertain coming back there,” Kerzner said. “The situation is what it is. It will cost an extremely large amount of money, and we were hoping insurance would cover it, but now they have to start another process to attain money. It puts us way past our deadline.”
The announcement also said the RiverHawks have not received monetary compensation for the loss of the eight games that were to be played at James Brown Arena.
“They haven’t come forward,” Kerzner said. “I gave them numbers for compensation in April. I used average walk-up (tickets sold), average presell, those things. It didn’t seem to be a big issue at all. They understood where the numbers came from. So I’m still waiting on that. We’ll have to wait and see.”
Messages left for Monty Jones Jr., the general manager of Global Spectrum, which manages the James Brown Arena, and Cedric Johnson, the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority chairman, were not returned.
It will be up to the league to determine what happens to RiverHawks players. The likely scenarios are either granting them free agency or holding a draft within the league.
Refunds for season-ticket deposits will be issued before the end of May, according to the release. All season-ticket deposits will be given back before May 31, wherever possible. More information on ticket refunds will be provided at the RiverHawks’ Web site after May 20.