Friday, January 30, 2009

Debt ridden Cents facing extinction, investors needed:

This is from Thursday's Merritt News.

John O'Connor, Reporter

The Merritt Centennials president has denied rumours that the team will be relocating to Kamloops and says the team could fold in investors are not found.

After weeks of rumours in newspapers and on blogs that the Merritt Centennials were part of a deal that would see them go to Kamloops in exchange for a Junior B team, the team may end up folding.

"When people stop pumping in money, it will fold," said Centennials president Tom Reynolds.

There are several interested buyers who could save the Cents from extinction, but so far no deal has been made.

The team has amassed $60,000 in debts this season for a total debt of $350,000. The team owns a house that was being sold for close to $900,000, but Reynolds says they won't get what they are asking because of the sliding real estate market.

In order for the team to just break even with the current operating budget, they would need to sell at least 350 season tickets and average 350 paying fans per game.

As for the rumours of being swapped for the Kamloops Storm, Reynolds says the team is not currently looking at relocation. There is no league deadline to relocate the team.

Fans have been complaining about the Nicola Valley Memorial Arena, the performance of the team, and coach Al Glendinning, according to Reynolds.

"I'm not certain that if we had a bigger arena things would be better," said Reynolds.

The Centennials are on their way to matching their worst record, posted back in the 83-84 season in which they only won eight games. This season the Cents have won seven games and have only 11 games remaining. They have not had a winning season since 2005-06 when current head coach Al Glendinning won the BCHL coach of the year award.

Glendinning has been behind the Cents bench since 2002. This will be the second straight season he hasn't taken the team to the post-season.

The BCHL estimates that on average, coaches last four to five years with a team.

In order for a coaching change to be made, there has to be a majority vote by the Centennials board of directors.

"If fans aren't interested in coming out, perhaps we don't deserve a team," said Reynolds. "We expect to be here next season - we don't know how, but we expect it."

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