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Hawks in talks with Salem

With team losing cash, owners look at fairgrounds pavilion
by: , DONOVAN

The Salem Winter Hawks? Jack Donovan, president of Portland’s junior hockey team, has been meeting monthly with Oregon State Fair manager Dave Koellermeier, but both say they have had only preliminary talks on a possible move to the capital. Winter Hawks’ principal owner Jim Goldsmith says no decision has been made to relocate to the 5,700-seat pavilion at the Oregon State Fairgrounds and Expo Center, should the club seek out of its Rose Quarter lease or want to move when the lease expires in 2013. “That’s a rumor,” Goldsmith says. Western Hockey League Commissioner Ron Robison doesn’t rule out a move, which would require the approval of Robison and the other teams. But “we’re not prepared to consider this,” he says. “We want to preserve the Portland Winter Hawks in Portland.” “We have to listen to all possibilities,” Goldsmith says. “But we have a lease in Portland and a landlord (the Trail Blazers). We would never walk away from a lease or an obligation in a landlord-tenant relationship. “It’s our intention to make this better. It’s our drive to make it a good hockey team, and a good business.” The Hawks have said they cannot make a profit under the lease, which Goldsmith and his partners inherited when they bought the team in 2006. “(The Blazers) don’t plan on talking about the next lease until the last year of this one,” Donovan says. “How can I not look at all rational opportunities?” The state fair pavilion is three years old, cost $14 million to build and is equipped with 5,700 backed seats. “It’s a great, well-kept secret,” Koellermeier says. “It’s got a lot of capabilities; its configuration for hockey looks very promising.” Koellermeier says up to $2 million needs to be raised to make it hockey-ready. It would need an ice sheet, boards, expanded locker rooms and a different scoreboard. Koellermeier, who seeks more year-round events and sports at the fairgrounds, says he has been working with the city of Salem on roads and infrastructure for 18 months, with the thought of a sports team playing in the pavilion. “I have a lot of respect for Jack and his organization,” Koellermeier says. “They’ve spent time here looking at it, doing due diligence, and to see if it’s a viable deal. It’s a very interesting proposition, the notion of ice hockey here.” The Hawks, already being audited by the WHL, laid off five front-office employees Monday, two of them full-time, to trim payroll. “It was a sad day, because we’d been through the wars together — good people,” Donovan says. “If it wasn’t a sensitive (financial) time, I wouldn’t have to make changes. “We looked at how many hats (remaining employees) could wear, and we have to be able to hustle. Then we’ll look at (hiring) seasonal employees and hourly work.” This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.