Growlers could move to new home outside St. John's, as nearby mayors express interest

·4 min read
The Newfoundland Growlers are still looking for a permanent home after losing their arena in St. John's earlier this year. (Danny Arsenault/CBC - image credit)
The Newfoundland Growlers are still looking for a permanent home after losing their arena in St. John's earlier this year. (Danny Arsenault/CBC - image credit)
Danny Arsenault/CBC
Danny Arsenault/CBC

Businessman Dean MacDonald says he's considering building a new arena to house the Newfoundland Growlers outside of St. John's, and communities surrounding the province's capital are watching keenly.

MacDonald — owner of Deacon Sports and Entertainment and the ECHL Growlers — hinted at the move last week at the Mount Pearl-Paradise chamber of commerce.

The Growlers are looking for a permanent home after being shuffled out of the city-owned Mary Brown's Centre in downtown St. John's over allegations against employees of Deacon Sports for workplace misconduct.

Where a new arena could be situated is unknown for now, but the mayors of Mount Pearl, Paradise and Conception Bay South are open to the idea of having the rink in their backyards and the potential economic boost that comes with it.

They're also keeping their distance from the unfolding drama between Deacon Sports and the City of St. John's, with all three offering no comment when asked if the situation would deter working with the company.

"It boils down to, I think at the end of the day, the best fit. The economics will be determined by the Growlers organization in terms of what they want to build. I can say the City of Mount Pearl doesn't want to own a 4,000 to 6,000 seat arena," Mount Pearl Mayor Dave Aker told CBC Radio's The St. John's Morning Show Wednesday.

"But naturally, as a community that's really focused on hockey and minor sports, as well as economic development, we would certainly entertain the opportunity to sit down and have a conversation."

Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

Mount Pearl is the closest neighbour to St. John's and had been hosting Growlers' practices at the Glacier Arena ahead of the team's first home stand earlier this month.

Aker said the city has had internal discussions about the idea of bringing the Growlers to Mount Pearl, but nothing direct, as of yet, with the organization itself.

He said the city is also willing to move minor hockey aside for the short-term if the Growlers wanted to play its next home stretch out of Mount Pearl on Dec. 1 against the Reading Royals, much like what Conception Bay South did for the team's first six home games this season.

Land available, open for business

A privately owned arena would mean MacDonald and Deacon Sports will have full reign over its operations, from staffing and programming to revenue streams. It would also mean municipal staff won't be involved, unlike the Mary Brown's Centre which employs staff under St. John's Sports and Entertainment and who brought the allegations forward against Deacon Sports.

Conception Bay South Mayor Darrin Bent told CBC News that MacDonald was actively scouting land during the recent Growlers' home stand in his community.

"We are very interested in seeing what's possible between Deacon Sports and the town. If they want to set up a new arena somewhere, we think we're the best possible solution for them," Bent said.

"We've had some discussions with Dean MacDonald and let him know that we are open to any investment that he has on his plate that he wants to do.... He told me that he had a drive around, that he had a look."

Ted Dillon/CBC
Ted Dillon/CBC

In Paradise, Mayor Dan Bobbett said the town would help facilitate any potential sale of land to MacDonald if necessary.

Paradise hosted the Toronto Maple Leafs — the Growlers' parent club — training camp in 2019.

"We'd love to have it in Paradise no doubt, and we'd love to have Paradise the home of the Growlers," Bobbett said.

"There's lots of land available in Paradise for such a facility.... From our understanding there has been talks with private land owners and Deacon Sports and Entertainment."

As for Mount Pearl, Aker said there's land available near where the current Glacier Arena sits that had been partially dedicated to a new hotel.

Meanwhile, the Growlers could find themselves back inside the Mary Brown's Centre after all, despite an ongoing investigation and a lawsuit. On Friday, local news outlet VOCM reported Deacon Sports and the City of St. John's may have buried the hatchet.

CBC News contacted Deacon Sports and the City of St. John's. A Deacon Sports spokesperson told CBC the company would not be commenting. The city has not replied.

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