(Wenatchee, WA) First, we would like to apologize to our season ticket holders, fans, and corporate partners. We do not like having to do talk about the license agreement in a public setting, especially because we want to allow our players and coaches to focus on their most important part of the season. Bill has been out of town for the last few days, but will be on KPQ tomorrow morning to respond in person to the comments made by the PFD. This letter and Bill’s interview will be the last time we will talk publicly about the license negotiations, and we will not allow it to be a continued distraction to our season ticket holders, fans, corporate partners, players, coaches, and staff.
This is a rather lengthy response to the actions taken by the PFD and their spokesperson, Mayor Kuntz on Monday, April 8, 2013. The Wenatchee Wild wants to remain in the Valley as a long term tenant of the Town Toyota Center and want to support our community and nonprofits because of all the wonderful support they have given us over the last 5 years. Even though we are frustrated with the tactics of the PFD, we want to thank them for all their hard work and sincerely appreciate their commitment to the building and the Valley. This letter is not intended to offend anyone. We simply want to clarify our position.
In light of the events of the last few days and the behavior of some members of the Public Facility District we, the Wenatchee Wild management, feel it is imperative to respond to the misleading and derogatory comments made toward our organization by the Mayor on behalf of the Public Facilities District Board.
The Mayor represents that the Wild missed deadlines and have dealt with the PFD in an unfair manner. We respectfully and categorically refute this position. Prior to the tax increase and bond default (over a year ago), we advised the PFD that we would be unable to continue under the current license once it expired. We have been in negotiations with the PFD for new terms since early in 2012. In 2010, we retained a professional sports consultant, accountant to conduct a study comparing the arena leases of hockey teams across the state. The results of that study presented a detailed, numerical, objective report that showed the Wild’s lease with the Town Toyota Center was by far the most expensive lease of any hockey team (including WHL teams with much higher revenues) in all of Washington State. The study was provided to the PFD over two years ago. We have also given the PFD the lease points that need to be changed from the current agreement in order for the Wild to survive. The PFD has not had only a weekend to ponder these terms; they have had more than THREE YEARS to ascertain what the Wild would need to exist as a tenant in the Town Toyota Center
Even though the Wild had previously stated that we needed relief from the current lease agreement we instead were presented a lease that, while it lowered some costs, took income from the organization resulting in a net loss to the Wild of an additional One Million Dollars over the term of the new agreement. For an organization that has lost money in three of the five years they have been a tenant at Town Toyota Center, this does not seem like good faith negotiating on behalf of the PFD.
The PFD has offered Town Toyota a 25% reduction in their naming rights contract. The Wild is only asking for a 20% reduction.
Secondly, the Wild has repeatedly advised the PFD that it is prohibitively uneconomical to operate an NAHL team in Wenatchee. Many of you don’t know, but the Wild must pay not only for its travel across the country for games away, but it must also pay the travel of non-division teams to come play us in Wenatchee. If we were to operate an NAHL team next year, there would only be 3 teams in the division, with 2 of them in Alaska. The travel expenses would make the situation even more untenable.
Thirdly, the PFD was very much aware that the Wild management has been dealing with deadlines from 2 separate international hockey federations, the USA Junior Council, BC amateur hockey, two different leagues, and the PFD’s self-imposed deadlines. In addition to meeting deadlines and obtaining approvals from each of these entities, the Wild management has worked diligently to put a quality product on the ice, along with an entertaining experience for its fans.
Mr. Mayor, we apologize that you lost a weekend to work but as you stated “government moves slowly sometimes just so we have time to think about and understand and get the big picture of the issue”. In addition you called us on the carpet for not being able to make an April 1, 2013 deadline when in our first season in Wenatchee the PFD was more than willing to accept a May 7, 2008 deadline when it accomplished what they wanted, getting the Wild to play at the, then, empty Town Toyota Center.
Fourthly, the Wild was slowed by the PFD when they unilaterally and with no prior notice completely changed the contract being negotiated. We attempted on numerous occasions to sit down with members of the PFD to go point by point through the document and explain our position. We were repeatedly denied that opportunity.
We told the PFD we could not sign their document as doing so would not be financially responsible to our owners, the team or the great Wenatchee Wild fans, who currently pay a reasonable price to attend Wild games and cannot be expected to pay more for the operation of the Town Toyota Center.
The Citizens of Wenatchee and the Valley have already agreed to an additional tax to support the building and it does not seem fair or reasonable to force them to pay for the failures of their leaders again.
The Wild were then told to present the PFD with our own document that we would be able to work with for the next ten years and to sign it before we submitted it. We did exactly that, and the PFD has chosen to reject the minimum savings that could have kept the Wild in Wenatchee. Now we are told that they do not like the document we submitted, stating that it was based on a 2008 document. Pardon me Mr. Mayor, but it is the document that the Wild and the PFD originally agreed to in 2008, and was drafted by an attorney who has done numerous facility licenses for professional sports teams over his many years in practice. Not by an attorney without experience in this area. Also, we are not sure what your problem is with a good document that fairly and accurately lays out responsibilities of the parties, just because it is an old document. The last time we checked, our country still operates under a document that is over 200 years old.
We believe that the PFD, Mayor Kuntz, Peter Fraley, and Mark Miller, have chosen not to deal fairly with the team and believe that their strong arm tactics are unprofessional and totally disrespectful of what the Wild has done in this community. It’s also curious why these people feel they can act in such an uncivil manner when the only people with a personal investment in the Event Center are the Wenatchee Wild ownership. The PFD, the Mayor, and the Building Manager all have your tax dollars to thank for supporting the building.
We find it rather curious that a public official would feel free to publicly criticize private citizens without giving them the opportunity to defend their actions, especially those who have actually brought positive things to the community.
Last but not least, it seems that this group of lawyers and politicians has forgotten what the Wild brings to the community. Notwithstanding the direct economic impact of $1.5 million dollars in businesses other than the Wild each year, the Wild have been good citizens. In addition to bringing over 500,000 fans into the Event Center, we have given back over $400,000 to local charities, provided a Reading with the Wild program in local schools, sponsored a Valley-wide campaign against bullying, placed over 50 hockey players in college programs, had 2 NHL draft picks, and hopefully provided you, the Wenatchee Wild fans with great entertainment.
Mayor, we apologize for being unable to meet your self-created deadline. We worked diligently and tried to work fairly, honestly, and intelligently to get a license that would be fair to both parties and provide the team with the opportunity to meet its obligations. Maybe you just don’t like the Stewarts, and that’s okay. But it’s not about your weekend and it’s not about you. It’s about trying for the first time to get the two parties to actually work together so that both can be successful and therefore continue to provide Wenatchee with something it can be proud of.
Thank you fans for taking the time to read our response.
Wenatchee Wild Management