The Bentley Generals are on the move.
After nearly 16 seasons playing out of the old Bentley Arena, the Generals franchise will officially become known as the Lacombe Generals starting next season.
“We just don’t get the crowds that we need to sustain operations,” said General Manager Jeff McInnis about why the team decided to move.
During their regular meeting on Monday, Lacombe City council directed staff to amend the existing Barnett Arena renovation scope of work to include a $3.4 million expansion to the building itself.
The expansion will allow for construction of a brand new 2,067 sq. ft. dressing room for the use of a senior men’s hockey team. The money will go towards five new dressing rooms, and to making the existing spaces more functional.
“We’ve been moving our games since the spring of 2007 around Central Alberta and we’re well versed at it, we’re used to that. What I’m looking forward to is for our staff and our trainers and our men to be able to put up shop and stay at a place from training camp all the way through the season,” McInnis said, adding the decision to move away from Bentley wasn’t an easy one.
“We look forward to building a home in Lacombe because we feel that that city, and all the surrounding areas, will support it. We feel that our fans from Bentley should, hopefully, understand why we’re moving and I hope they still love us and want to support us.
“We’re not turning our backs on anyone, we’re just trying to stay alive,” McInnis said.
He also noted the team has been experiencing a drop in attendance in recent years, which has made managing costs a challenge, despite the fact that the Generals are a perennial contender at the senior men’s AAA level.
“I don’t now if it’s the geographic distance or that our rink is cold. With the combination of everything, people aren’t wanting to come watch us. We feel our hockey deserves a better crowd than it’s been getting.”
The Generals approached Lacombe City council last month about the possibility of relocating.
McInnis said the organization eventually settled on Lacombe as a potential host city because of its proximity to Bentley as well as the facilities it has.
“Lacombe’s got the right facility. Lacombe’s got the right proximity to where our men currently are. Lacombe is nice and close to Highway 2 and Lacombe’s got a history of senior hockey,” McInnis said.
“When the bills come piling up, you need to evaluate your situation. Do you stay put because you love it, because it’s home? Or do you move on in order to survive?”
While the specifics of a deal between the City of Lacombe and the Bentley Generals have not been decided, barring any unforeseen circumstances the Lacombe Generals will play their home opener at the Barnett Arenas in September of next year.