Over at Slightly Chilled, Ryan Clark says the reported news from May that the group seeking a USHL franchise for Marion is getting its ducks in a row.
Game 7 Seven, LLC -- led by Chicago businessman Val Belmonte -- currently own a dormant franchise assigned to Thunder Bay. The team would play in a $34 million, 4,100-seat rink that is currently under construction on land near the junction of I-69 and State Road 18.
Game 7 Seven's Val Belmonte told Clark that he is confident they'll get approval from the league to start operations for the 2012-13 season.
When this was first announced as a possibility in May, analysis we did of the USHL's markets showed Marion would be the league's second-smallest market in terms of area population (Tri-City is the smallest) and have the smallest median income. However, the Marion franchise would be the only game in town -- save two NAIA colleges and the ever-popular Marion Giants basketball team -- and generally, those teams tend to draw a passionate fan base of civic boosters. This would also increase the profile of Marion, which -- like many north central Indiana towns that once thrived on the auto industry -- has dealt with some recent economic struggles. Mayor Wayne Seybold has worked tirelessly to stabilize and improve the city since then -- and successfully in a lot of ways -- and being a former figure skater, he realizes the value of the rink. It would be the only ice sheet on the I-69 corridor between Fishers and Fort Wayne.
In other USHL news
The Omaha Lancers will likely be changing coaches. Coach Bliss Littler announced on Twitter this morning that he had been fired, and it was later confirmed by the team. Omaha is 9-8-2 and third in the Western Conference, just five points out of first place and one point out of second. It's unusual to see a midseason coaching change in the USHL -- although the Ice did it twice, replacing Red Gendron with Dean Grillo in 2004-05. It's even more unusual to see it happen to a team that's in playoff contention. Mike Aikens is the new interim head coach for the Lancers.