Originally created 11/29/97

Deadline passes but officials hope to ice deal



The deal to bring professional ice hockey to Augusta next season might be sealed as early as Tuesday.

A Friday deadline -- originally presented to Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center officials -- passed, but both Frank Milne, Raleigh IceCaps general manager, and Pat Cumiskey, civic center manager, said they are hoping to schedule a meeting early next week.

They said they are waiting for the OK from other team and civic center officials.

"We had to be a little more flexible with our deadline," Mr. Milne said. "The Thanksgiving holiday complicated things a bit, but we're working on scheduling something in a few days. We want to bring hockey to Augusta and I'm still confident we're going to get it done."

The ultimatum Mr. Milne gave the civic center, he said, was necessary because the IceCaps must tell the East Coast Hockey League by midnight on Monday where they plan to play next season.

Mr. Cumiskey said Friday he is waiting to hear from Micheal McGee, chief operating officer of Leisure Management International, which manages the civic center, to schedule a meeting with IceCaps officials.

"We need to be sure that all the right people are going to be present to negotiate this deal and, once that happens, I'm confident we will reach an agreement," Mr. Cumiskey said.

"We want to sit down with somebody who can make the deal," Mr. Milne said. "(Mr. Cumiskey's) hands are tied. We're waiting to talk to the people with the authority to make this deal."

The IceCaps, who currently play at Dorton Arena on the North Carolina State Fairgrounds, have planned to relocate since the National Hockey League's Hartford Whalers moved to North Carolina and became the Carolina Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes are playing their first two seasons in Greensboro, N.C., before settling into their permanent home in a new arena under construction in Raleigh.

In September, the Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority voted to spend $1 million to build an ice floor, clearing the way for the IceCaps to move to Augusta for the 1998-99 season.

Months of negotiations reached an apparent stalemate last week when both sides were wary of the series of offers and counteroffers presented over the past two weeks.

The latest round of talks has been held up because officials with Leisure Management International -- the Houston-based company that runs the civic center -- want to handle the negotiations.

LMI runs several major arenas including Houston's Compaq Center (formerly The Summit), the Miami Arena and The Pyramid in Memphis.