The Winnipeg Jets are gauging support for an American Hockey League team in Thunder Bay through a voluntary online survey.
The NHL team is asking a number of questions related to the possible relocation of the St. John’s IceCaps from Newfoundland to Northern Ontario, where they would become the primary tenant in a proposed $100-million event centre being discussed in Thunder Bay.
The Survey Monkey questionnaire asks participants their potential ticket-buying frequency for an AHL team in Thunder Bay as well and their current level of interest in both the Lakehead Thunderwolves and Junior A Thunder Bay North Stars.
Jets spokesman Scott Brown said the True North Sports and Entertainment-sponsored survey is part of the team’s due-diligence process.
Earlier this year the Jets agreed to partner with Thunder Bay Live, the group the city signed a letter of intent with to run the 5,700-seat facility.
Council has yet to approve construction the event centre, and is expected to entertain a Phase 3 study in June, which includes preliminary designs, a business plan and cost estimates.
City officials last week said they’d like to see construction begin as early as next spring.
“It’s a basic step in gauging an understanding of the market, it’s interest in the different levels of hockey that they currently have in Thunder Bay and their potential interest if there was an American Hockey League team in terms of number of games of attendance, price point and other factors like that,” Brown said.
The survey will run until the beginning of May.
Brown said the Jets are looking to maximize the response from residents of Thunder Bay.
“We don’t have a specific expectation or plateau in terms of making a decision, but we do hope to hear from a lot of people which would help us make a more accurate decision and assessment of the interest of the market in the American Hockey League and the market’s ability to support the American Hockey League,” Brown said.
“And I think that’s an important assessment for everybody involved. You never want to make a commitment to a city and then not have it be as successful as everyone wanted it to be.”
Michael Smith, the cities facilities manager, said he's not concerned about the timing of the survey, calling it a normal part of the process.
"They've always said that they would do their own market research on the market here in Thunder Bay," Smith said. "We're not surprised at all to see that they've gone out to do their own independent survey. In fact, we expected that."
The Jets survey is one of two Survey Monkey event centre-related polls being conducted at this time. Lakehead University students are also seeking public input on the appetite for an event center, which would likely be built using mainly taxpayer dollars at the federal, provincial and municipal levels.
Neither survey purports to be scientific in nature. LU professor Mike Yuan has acknowledged his students are aware some people have accessed the poll multiple times, adding where possible those results will be wiped out.
Notes: Archtiect Chris O'Reilly estimated designs for the proposed facility are about seven to eight per cent complete.