Future looks bright for hockey in Columbus

Future looks bright for hockey in Columbus
Logo for the proposed Columbus Burn team. (Source: Dave Platta/WTVM)
Logo for the proposed Columbus Burn team. (Source: Dave Platta/WTVM)
Fidel Jenkins. (Source: Dave Platta/WTVM)
Fidel Jenkins. (Source: Dave Platta/WTVM)

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) – The future now looking a little brighter for pro hockey in Columbus.

Wednesday, the potential new owner for the area's minor-league hockey team making his first public statements to the media.

In a press conference this afternoon, Fidel Jenkins, a real estate broker with business ties in Texas and New York, said he's about to finalize his agreement with the Southern Professional Hockey League and keep the team in Columbus.

Jenkins talked about finding a strategy to bring excitement back to the franchise.

"This particular plan isn't a fly-by-night plan. It's a plan that was specifically based on looking at this Columbus market," said Fidel Jenkins, the potential new owner of Columbus' SPHL franchise.

The team's new name would be the Columbus Burn.

While it looks like he will likely take over for former owner Wanda Amos, Jenkins said the team will have a new identity, with no ties to the Cottonmouths.

"I am not trying to replace that her organization or Jerome's done," Jenkins said. "What I'm trying to do is create something new, and turn the page, and do something completely different."

News Leader 9 talked to former Columbus Cottonmouths hockey player Tom Maldonado, who said he feels it's hard knowing the team will be re-branded.

"It does hurt," Maldonado said, "because the Cottonmouths name and the logo, has been here for so long, there's so much tradition behind it."

But, he said, he hopes the change helps keep hockey in Columbus.

"The organization needed some bit of a change, and hopefully, the change that Mr. Jenkins can bring is the change the organization needed," Maldonado said, "hopefully revitalize hockey in the area."

Jenkins said he knows, for the franchise's future to stay stable, he'll need to bring in the entire community.

"I think that we can increase the fan experience. I know we can increase the sponsor experience," Jenkins said. "But, most importantly, getting fans back- I think we can do that."

The details of the lease agreement to keep the team playing at the Columbus Civic Center have not been made public yet, but Jenkins said the lease with the city for the Civic Center is about 90 percent done.

When it's completed, he'll finish the process of purchasing the franchise from the SPHL, with the team taking the ice in the 2018-2019 season.

No word yet exactly on whether long-time Cottonmouths franchise figure and head coach Jerome Bechard will have some role on this new team.

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