The Tri-State area can close the book on IceMen hockey. The ECHL has announced the transfer of the franchise from Evansville to Jacksonville, Florida. Owner Ron Geary says "Jacksonville is a natural fit for professional hockey."
In a news release from the league, he added "we looked at the enthusiastic support current teams receive here and are excited to join them in providing Jacksonville fans with solid, family-priced sports entertainment." Geary also owns Ellis Park, a nearly 100-year-old horse track in Henderson, Kentucky.
In September, Geary, who also owned the team when it was located in Evansville, pulled off the table a previously-announced plan to shift the franchise to nearby Owensboro, Kentucky. Geary said the costs associated with expanding and renovating the Kentucky city’s aging sports arena would be too high. The announcement in Owensboro followed a stormy exit from Evansville after a publicly-displayed disagreement between the city and Geary over an agreement to keep the team in the Ford Center. No deal was reached and the IceMen went dormant before the start of last season.
Evansville pursued and landed a Southern Professional Hockey League franchise, the Thunderbolts, following the IceMen leaving town. The team is in the middle of its first full season in the Ford Center in downtown Evansville.
The Jacksonville IceMen are set to begin play this fall. ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna says "Jacksonville is an excellent geographic fit for our South Division. Ron Geary and his team have been working behind the scenes for many months in preparation for this day. This is a great sports town and the Veterans Memorial Arena a terrific facility to showcase ECHL hockey."