NORTH DELTA — The prospective new owner of a Junior A hockey team in North Delta toured Sungod Recreaction Centre on Tuesday morning (Jan. 24), and he says he likes what he sees.
It was a return trip to the 112th Street arena for Kejun Wang, a Vancouver resident and hockey parent who has a deal, in principle, to buy the West Kelowna Warriors and move the BCHL team to North Delta.
But first, the league’s franchise committee must approve the move, and a decision by the board of governors may not be made public for another week or two.
At Sungod on Tuesday, in an exclusive interview, Wang spoke to the Now through a female interpreter named Patricia.
“(We) are very happy with the whole facility here in North Delta, and also the people from the parks and recreation board have been very supportive to bring a Junior A team to North Delta,” Wang said through the interpreter.
Asked if he would like to see improvements made to the 2,000-seat arena, Wang said yes, he would, although it’s unclear who would pay for any renovations.
“(We) would like to have some improvements, including the home-team dressing room – (we would) like to make it nicer, the room. And (we) are very happy with the local location, which is very convenient,” Wang said through the interpreter.
“(We) are looking forward to working with people from China, bringing players to Delta, a very good location, close to airports.”
(Click below to hear interview with the Now’s Tom Zillich on CKNW radio station, on Sunday, Jan. 22)
Wang and his wife are parents of two sons who play hockey at Burnaby Winter Club, or BWC.
Last week, the Now reported that Warriors owner Mark Cheyne wanted to move his team from West Kelowna to North Delta, but it turns out the relocation bid involves the sale of the franchise to Wang. CLICK HERE to read our original story.
The league’s board of governors met last week to discuss the possible move, and the franchise committee will now “vet out” the prospective new owner and facility, according to BCHL commissioner John Grisdale.
“We have to take a closer look at all of that, including the business plan and the community,” Grisdale said Friday. “The league has been there (in North Delta) before, in the early days, and unsuccessfully, so all of that has to be reviewed.
He added: “It’s nice to have an interested party but our league, like any league, wants to make sure it’s going to be a good move.… You want to make sure it’s a good operation, a good franchise, from top to bottom.”
The franchise committee’s report will tackle subjects including potential fan interest in attending games at Sungod and also possible team sponsors, Grisdale said.
A BCHL team in North Delta would be nearby competition for the Surrey Eagles, a team that draws between 400 and 500 fans per game at South Surrey Arena.
In addition to the Eagles, the league’s Mainland division includes teams in Coquitlam, Langley, Chilliwack, Prince George and Wenatchee, in Washington State.
Last season, the West Kelowna Warriors, who play in the Interior division, won the RBC Cup national championship for Junior A hockey teams. Despite recent on-ice success, the team has struggled to attract crowds at Royal LePage Place, the rink in West Kelowna.
In November, Delta council supported a move to have Junior A hockey games played at Sungod, and a memorandum of understanding with Wang was drafted.
The club is looking to play home games on Saturday nights and also have daytime practices on weekdays, according to a report to council from Delta’s director of parks, recreation and culture.
The Junior-B North Delta Devils played at Sungod until the end of the 2014 season, when the team moved to Langley and became the Knights. Last fall, the PJHL franchise moved to Surrey and now plays at North Surrey rec centre.