Will Chatham’s New Arena Finally Land The City An OHL Team?
If Chatham’s new downtown arena comes to fruition, will the 4000 seat state-of-the-art entertainment facility be enough to finally lure an OHL team to the Municipality of Chatham-Kent?
Historically, Chatham has been a city of discussion for a number of OHL franchises including the Niagara IceDogs, Belleville Bulls, Erie Otters, and Plymouth Whalers.
In 2015, Chatham narrowly missed out on the relocation of the Plymouth Whalers who ultimately chose Flint, becoming the Flint Firebirds.
According to then Plymouth owner, and longtime Carolina Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos, “We were dead serious about going to Chatham, but the city fathers were having a hard time getting their act together in getting the new building.”
OHL interest in the city stems back to 1999 when Mark and Dale Hunter wanted to locate an OHL franchise in Chatham, but the brothers ultimately bought the London Knights. The rest has become a history of financial and on-ice success for the Hunter’s and London.
In 2014, then CAO of Chatham-Kent Don Shropshire stated there had been four OHL franchises in contact with Chatham-Kent, but none arrived.
The main sticking point each time was the lack of a feasible plan to build a new arena in Chatham. With recent plans to build a new arena on the current location of the Downtown Chatham Centre, it’s inevitable that OHL franchises will come knocking.
Some have speculated conversations are already well underway to relocate a team to Chatham upon completion of the arena.
Only time will tell.