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City Council approves Privateers’ move to fairgrounds

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Thousand Islands Privateers owner Nicole E. Kirnan said Monday night she is now ready to start marketing and looking for corporate sponsors after the Watertown City Council agreed to let the hockey team move to the city next season.

“We’re very happy to be able to bring hockey to the city of Watertown,” Ms. Kirnan said after council members unanimously approved an agreement Monday night for the team to play next season in the Watertown Municipal Arena at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds. “We see it as a tremendous opportunity.”

For weeks, city officials have been working on getting the Federal Hockey League team to move from Alexandria.

The contract took four votes to pass. Although the vote was 5-0, council members Joseph M. Butler Jr. and Teresa R. Macaluso expressed reservations about giving the Privateers the six-month franchise agreement.

They agreed to give the team a chance, even though they heard some opposition from arena users about losing ice time. On Thursday, Ms. Kirnan met with the council’s two remaining holdouts.

“I do have my reservations, but I’m willing to give it a shot to see how it goes,” Mr. Butler said before the vote.

Working together on the project, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham and Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith said the Privateers will enhance the ice arena and could help make a case for obtaining state funding to make significant improvements to the facility.

“I’m enthusiastically supporting it,” the mayor said.

Several members and parents of the Figure Skating Club of Watertown attended the meeting. Previously, they expressed concerns that the team will take ice time away from the skaters.

After the meeting, club president Stacy J. Faunce said the skating club will no longer be able to use the arena for four hours on Fridays, as it has done for numerous years, when the Privateers have home games that night.

“Our concern is for the children,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll all be able to work together.”

For the past two seasons, the Privateers played their home games at the financially troubled Bonnie Castle Recreation Center in Alexandria.

The franchise agreement includes the following terms:

The team will have use of a locker room, although the players will have to remove their equipment after each game to let high school teams use those facilities. Locker rooms were a sticking point in the talks. Additional locker rooms will be provided to opposing teams and officials.

The team will pay $70 per hour for practices and $100 per hour for games. The Privateers will play 26 to 30 home games, seven to nine of them on Friday or Saturday nights. The season will run from mid-October to March. The team also will pay $1,475 for the season for office space at the fairgrounds.

The team will receive all beer concessions, but a licensed caterer must obtain an alcohol license from the state Liquor Authority.

The city will receive all food concessions. The team hopes to attract 1,000 fans per game.

The Privateers will be able to sell advertising on temporary signs around the arena and operate a pro shop at the facility.

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