Essex County Ravens to call Amherstburg home

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By Karen Fallon

When it comes to recognition for the United Community Credit Union Complex the town has scored what could be considered a touch down.

Glen Mills, president of the Essex County Ravens Football Club, along with Joe Mlinaric, director of fundraising, joined Dean Collver the town’s director of recreation and culture to seek council’s approval of a 10-year agreement between the sports group and the municipality regarding use of the UCCU complex.

The agreement would see an annual income of $29,000 over the 10-year contract.

“Amherstburg will provide a good home for the Essex County Ravens with a community that is passionate about sports and businesses and that understands the opportunities that come with having an investment like this within our boundaries,” notes Collver in a report to council.

However, time is of the essence, informed Collver, who added that the Ravens were hoping to play their 2013 season at the UCCU complex, which starts May 25.

The Essex County Ravens Football Club has developed into one of the “perennial powers” in the Ontario Varsity Football League since its inception sixteen years ago, notes Mills on the Ravens website.

Recently South Woodslee native and Ravens alumni, Kyle Quinlan, was signed by the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League. Quinlan led the McMaster University team to a national championship in 2011 and was a championship finalist in 2012.

Councillor John Sutton says he is “excited” about the partnership between the Ravens and the town.

Sutton asked for clarification regarding rumors that have been circulating questioning the safety of the field.

Mills says he believes the concerns revolve around the light posts that are fairly close to the field. But adds that he feels confident that it isn’t an issue.

“I think the main thing is the optics of it,” said Mlinaric. “People see it and they expect it should be an NFL stadium where everything is away and it isn’t just isn’t realistic for a town to have that kind of land available.”

Currently approximately 150 to 200 kids from the Windsor – Essex County region play football with the club, with some and some coming from as far away as Wallaceburg.

“We have numerous kids going onto scholarships some in the CFL, some in the AFL and hundreds and hundreds playing football throughout Canada,” said Mills. “The UCCU Complex is definitely a good fit for us with the outdoor turf and the use of the indoor complex.”

Part of the agreement would see the construction of a 1,000-seat grandstand, which would overlook the outdoor turf field.

The fees from the first five years of the agreement would be directed to offsetting the expense of building the grandstand, says Collver, who notes that the UCC Complex was built with the idea of attracting partners such as the Essex County Ravens Football Club.

“We are one of the pre-eminent teams in the Ontario Varsity Football League,” said Mlinaric, who added that playing at the “premiere” UCCU Complex would “make us the envy of everyone else in the league.”

The agreement would see also an upgrade to the outdoor turf field in the form of ‘hash marks’, two 35-yard lines and two 45-yard lines.

Concessions at the Raven’s games have been seen to gross $4,000 to $6,000 per day, notes Collver. And the projections on gross revenues for concessions could see $160,000 over the ten years. Marketing could also bring in revenues in the area of $230,000.

The attraction of this quantity of spectators adds to the potential for venue marketing and ancillary advertising revenues, notes Collver.

“I certainly think it is a worthwhile initial investment by the town,” said Sutton. “That is a multi-use recreational facility and this will be the first time we have a long term tenant on that field; that excites me.”

Cogeco has traditionally broadcast the Ravens football games over their Community Cable channel.

While the UCCU Complex is not currently able to support this broadcast it is seen to be an important part of the Ravens program and would add significant benefit to the relationship and future prospects for Amherstburg, says Collver.

The cost associated with the broadcast is a capital expense, which would see the

installation of fiber optics in the complex in order to do a live feed from the building.

In response to councilor Roberts Pillon’s inquiry as to how Mills and Mlinaric would rate the Amherstburg facility Mlinaric replied: “It is definitely rated at the top of the list.”

Council agreed with the recommendations by Collver, which will start the ball rolling to enable the Ravens to call Amherstburg home for the next ten years.

Mayor Wayne Hurst says the agreement between the town and the Ravens will not only expose the UCCU Complex but also the community.

“It has been proven that youngsters who are active in sports make better students,” said Hurst. “That in itself is going to pay dividends not just for our youth in Amherstburg, but in the region.”

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