River-city without the Rivermen

By Chad Weber

April 1, 2013 Updated Oct 26, 2013 at 1:24 AM CDT

PEORIA, Ill. -- Thanks to the St. Louis Blues, the River-city is singing the blues.

Just days after announcing plans to move the Rivermen from Peoria, the St. Louis Blues Monday confirmed selling the team to the Vancouver Canucks.

"It kind of shocked me a little bit but I think you have a lot of these smaller towns that want to get in there with the big boys," said former Rivermen owner Bruce Saurs.

Saurs is referring to a higher level of competition for American Hockey League teams.

The 19 year owner said, recently, the hockey landscape has changed.

"I think things have changed where I think a lot of cities are willing to let them have rent free," said Saurs. "As a matter of fact they own the arena in St. Charles where its just about from East Peoria to Peoria. A lot of these towns are really going all out to get an American Hockey League franchise, that's the best there is other than the NHL."

"This is a very high level of play for the community the size of Peoria," said Don Welch, president and CEO of the Peoria area convention and visitors bureau.

"For the team to be able to make the dollars and cents work, I'm sure its been a struggle," said Welch.

For Welch and others trying to bring people into the city, the Rivermen games are a big loss for business.

"Go shopping at one of the malls, buy gasoline for the cars, you know do some other things while they are here," said Welch.

"A lot of times they are going to have dinner at one of our restaurants or they might have a beer, or a beer and dinner," said Peoria Mayor Jim Ardis.

"Weekends, our dinner crowd would definitely double and immediately after the games it would start our late nights a little bit busier," said Sullys assistant manager Jennifer Lamar.

Pending an AHL approval the sell will be final, and Peoria may be looking for a new team to root for.

"We have a great facility for it and its important for the downtown atmosphere," said Ardis.

"I think it still could succeed with a double-a franchise," said Bruce Saurs.

For now the question lingers, will hockey continue to Play in Peoria?

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