ROCKFORD (WREX) — The Rockford IceHogs have officially been sold to the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Rockford Area Venues and Entertainment Authority, or RAVE, unanimously approved the sale Wednesday morning. The City of Rockford owned the IceHogs, with RAVE overseeing them.
The Blackhawks are paying $11.8 million for the IceHogs which includes a 15-year lease the IceHogs continue to play at the BMO Harris Bank Center in Rockford. A long-term relationship between the IceHogs and the Blackhawks was a key component in the sale.
"We're going to be really integrating ourselves in the community more than ever before," Blackhawks Chairman Rocky Wirtz said. "Not just from the players' side. I'm excited about that. I think it's going to be good. I'm excited for the improvements to the building it's going to make. It's going to bring it up to snuff. I think it's going to be a much more fan-friendly atmosphere moving forward. We're looking forward to entertaining a lot of families in here."
The process started last August with Craig Thomas' meeting with Danny Wirtz. Wirtz had a bigger vision for the IceHogs and Rockford's relationship with the Blackhawks.
RAVE started officially accepting bids for the sale last month. RAVE told 13 WREX last month that having the Blackhawks more financially involved as a potential owner of the team would be a big win for Rockford. The Blackhawks made the only bid to buy the team.
"The vision moving forward is that the Chicago Blackhawks are going to be a much bigger part of the Rockford community, number 1," Thomas explains. "Number 2, our building is going to be a 2021 world-class venue. Number 3, we're going to have world-class hockey here and it's going to give us the ability to program even more additional performances that maybe didn't want to come play in a 40-year-old building."
After the sale was announced, Illinois Governor JB Pritzker announced a $23 million multi-year capital project to revitalize the BMO Harris Bank Center.
The project will modernize the BMO Harris Bank Center and will create over 250 construction jobs, retaining hundreds of existing full-time positions, and generating millions in economic activity to the region.
We'll have more on the sale tonight on 13 News at 5 and 6.