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Richmond Promised New Hockey Team If Coliseum Redevelopment Moves Forward

Man in tan jacket speaks at a podium
Fred Festa, a retired business executive, has been endorsed by the East Coast Hockey League to potentially create a new team in Richmond. (Roberto Roldan/VPM)

Richmond could be home to a new minor league hockey team if the city moves forward with building a new downtown arena.

At a press conference Monday, officials from the East Coast Hockey League endorsed Fred Festa to potentially create a new team. Festa is a retired business executive and the former owner of the Greenville Swamp Rabbits. He would be the sole owner of a yet-to-be-named Richmond team. Richmond has had two minor league hockey teams in the past, but both failed.

Standing in front of the shuttered Coliseum, Festa listed the things he’d need to make this one successful.

“I need to have a minimum of 5,000 people show up each game, on average. I need to have sponsorships and arrangements with local businesses and a lease that will be competitive.”

The average attendance for Norfolk’s hockey team was about 3,500 last year. According to Minor League Baseball, average attendance at Richmond Flying Squirrels games is 6,255, while USL League One reports average attendance at Richmond Kickers games of 3,468.

Actually signing a contract to bring a new hockey team to Richmond won’t happen until Richmond City Council has a final vote on the Navy Hill redevelopment project. It includes the publicly funded redevelopment of the Richmond Coliseum and the private redevelopment of the surrounding Navy Hill neighborhood.

Jeff Kelley, a spokesman for the proposed developers, NH District Corp., said the success of a hockey team in Richmond would rely on the new private investment in Downtown.

“This time will be a different neighborhood. You’re going to have a plaza out here, places to eat, places to live, a modern arena,” Kelley said.

Richmond City Council is expected to vote on the redevelopment project in late February.

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