The Future of Minor League Sports

By Josh Simon

March 20, 2013 Updated Mar 20, 2013 at 10:55 PM CDT

Peoria, IL --- Recent reports have declared impending doom for both the Rivermen and the Chiefs. So what exactly is the future of minor league sports in Peoria.

Bruce Saurs owned the Peoria Rivermen for 19 years before selling them to the St. Louis Blues in 2008. Now all he can do is watch as the Blues consider selling the team and moving them out of Peoria.

Former Peoria Rivermen owner Bruce Saurs said, " I hate to say this but I don't know if Peoria is really a good enough hockey town. We built that into a pretty big thing with the American Hockey League. Last year we had a total of 18 players that played with the Blues and the Rivermen at the same time. I don't think that people realize the quality of hockey that not only the Rivermen have but also the people they're playing."

Nothing official has come from the Blues who have not returned our phone calls but a report in Peoria Journal Star says that the team plans to sell the Rivermen to the Vancouver Canucks who would then move them to British Columbia. Saurs says the only hope to keep the Zamboni running is to find local ownership.

Saurs said, "It's going to take somebody that doesn't care much about money. I've had a lot of people call me and see if I would bring it back here. Well, I don't have the wear with all to do that."

The Rivermen aren't the only minor league sports team rumored to be leaving the Rivercity. Reports last month said that the Peoria Chiefs were close to folding but President Rocky Vonachen says the Chiefs aren't going anywhere.

Peoria Chief President Rocky Vonachen said, "We've had our ups and downs but we've been around for thirty years and we'll be around for another thirty years. We feel that we provide great family entertainment to Central Illinois and we'll continue to do that."

Vonachen says the team is one of only a handful of Minor league baseball teams that own their own stadium and they are looking for a new naming partner for the ballpark and to refinance their debt.

Vonachen said, "No we're not looking for a bailout, we're not looking for a hand out. We're looking just like many businesses and home owners take advantage of historically low rates and what we can find out there. We're exploring a lot of different options."

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