Pro hockey returning to coliseum in 2014

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Professional hockey is coming back to the Indiana State Fairgrounds.

The Indiana State Fair Commission announced Monday that it signed a deal with Indiana Hockey Club LLC, an ECHL expansion franchise that will become an anchor tenant for the fairgrounds’ newly renovated coliseum. It will begin playing its home games there in October 2014.

The deal calls for the team to house its administrative offices at the fairgrounds. Financial terms were not immediately available.

In April, IBJ reported that fairgrounds officials were trying to lure a team from the ECHL—formerly known as the East Coast Hockey League—and had identified a potential local ownership group. The ECHL is one of two leagues, along with the American Hockey League, affiliated with the National Hockey League.

Carmel businessman Jim Hallett, the CEO of KAR Auction Services, is chairman of Indiana Hockey Club LLC. He formerly was an owner of the Indianapolis Ice franchise that played in the Central Hockey League.

Sources with knowledge of the new team said the franchise will be called the Indianapolis Fuel.

“Professional hockey is back in Indy and we can’t wait to drop the puck,” Hallett said in a prepared statement Monday. “We have a great partnership with the Indiana State Fair Commission and a beautiful new arena that will be one of the premier hockey venues in the Midwest. We’ll offer affordable family fun and a competitive brand of hockey that hasn’t been seen here since the Indianapolis [International Hockey League] team that played in Market Square Arena in the 1990s." 

The coliseum complex is in the final months of a $63 million renovation that will modernize the arena with new lighting, a two-tiered seating bowl and a digital overhead scoreboard. It will accommodate about 6,200 fans for hockey and is scheduled to reopen in April 2014.

“This deal makes perfect sense for us, and we’re happy to have it done before the building opens next spring,” fair commission Chairman Andre Lacy said in a prepared statement. “I remember going to Capitals games in the coliseum as a boy eager for a puck to come my way, so bringing pro hockey back to the fairgrounds is especially gratifying to me personally.”

The fairgrounds has been a local hockey hub since 1939 when the coliseum first opened and the Indianapolis Capitals began the first of 13 seasons in the International American Hockey League. The building subsequently housed the Indianapolis Chiefs, Racers, Checkers and Ice for various durations in a variety of professional leagues from 1955 through 2004.

The Indiana Ice, an amateur team playing in the United States Hockey League, called the coliseum home from 2004 through 2012 when the renovation began, but decided not to return to the coliseum after the renovation is completed.

The Ice, owned by Indianapolis-area resident Paul Skjodt, now play most of their games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

That decision eventually led the commission to Hallett and the ECHL. Hockey’s premier “AA” league, the ECHL offers Ft. Wayne as a natural regional rival

Overall, it currently has 22 teams located throughout the country., including Evansville, Cincinnati and Toledo.  More than 500 players from the ECHL have gone on to play in the NHL since1988.  

“Indianapolis has an international reputation as a great sports town, and we’re confident it will once again be a great hockey town,” ECHL Commissioner Brian McKenna said in a statement.  “With an exceptional ownership group led by Jim Hallett, a brand new venue and a proud hockey tradition, we couldn’t be happier to expand the ECHL to Central Indiana.”

The hockey club is the second team to announce a deal to play in the renovated coliseum. Earlier this year, the IUPUI Jaguars announced a five-year agreement to play men’s home games and selected women’s basketball games in the arena.

The hockey team plans press conference Tuesday at 11 a.m. to disclose a lottery process for buying season tickets.


  • Wishful Thinking
    I’m a season ticket holder for the Ice as well however all I’m hearing is emotional support and wishful thinking. The numbers don’t lie. Ice on average pull in only 2,500 patrons, again that’s averaged. Go to an Evansville or Ft. Wayne game and see how much more involved the fans are and the number of butts in seats. Benevolence only gets you so far and in the end the bottom line is what any business man is concerned about. I hope you’re right. I hope the Ice survive in Indy but I wouldn’t count on it.
  • Blackhawks affiliates?!
    GO BRUINS!!!!!!!
  • Reply to TIm Prescott
    I totally agree with Tim's comments, come and watch the Indiana Ice, you will be hooked!!!
  • Hockey
    My son and I attend the Indiana Ice games, and as a seson ticket holder, I hope that thsi does not take away from the fan base of the Ice, the front office of the Ice are great people and the team is fun to watch. They put a quality product on the Ice every night and have put quite a few players in the NHL/AHL, and Tory Krug scored the game winning goal in OT for the Bruins against the Pens. John Carlson, Tory Krug, Ben Blood, Danill Tarasov. I wonder if the Ice are considering expanding Pan Am Pavilion, there certainly looks like there might be room to the east of the builiding for that between Capitol and Illinois streets.
  • One More Thing...
    I forgot to add this correction... The Ice are a AAA franchise, not AA. That is why a lot of their alumni go on to NCAA careers with scholarships and a few make it to the NHL. If you haven't seen any of the games or watched the talent that is right here in your own city, you should look into it. It's exciting and affordable to take your whole family... popcorn included!
    • I'll Take That Wager... Easy Money!
      First of all, the Ice have a loyal following. Forget about the fact that the level of play and competition @ the junior level is far more exciting to watch than the D-league of the ECHL. But with that said how will the Fuel survive in year one? There is no restaurant or even any suites for corporate sponsorship like there is @ BLF! I just don't understand how someone who is smart enough to come up with $63 Million is dumb enough not to include a few of the basics that bring folks in who want to be entertained... or more importantly, corporate types who want to entertain their customers. Maybe I'm missing something here but I think this is an easy bet for me if you're serious. My real name is here and you can find me if you look hard enough as I'm a local business owner and also fan of hockey and the Indianapolis Ice!
      • ECHL Players in the NHL
        Interesting read: http://www.echl.com/record-93-former-echl-players-on-nhl-opening-day-rosters-p187537
      • BLF
        The Fuel have a 10-year lease with the Coliseum. They're not going to BLF, ever. I will admit -- I LOVE the USHL level of play. And I consider the five years the Indianapolis Ice were in the CHL to be the worst five years in Indianapolis' recent hockey history. The dropoff in level of play from the AHL to the ECHL is pretty dramatic. The only true prospects you see are goalies and maybe a project defensemen -- NHL teams have their major prospects in either junior or, if they're over 20, the AHL. The high-end talent is better in the USHL than the ECHL. There's no question about that -- you'll never see a Joe Pavelski, Jaden Schwartz, John Carlson, Brandon Saad in the ECHL. I appreciate the Ice. They've brought a level of hockey that is focused on HOCKEY, and not gimmicks. They've been developing the game at all levels, from the youth level on up to junior. And they've sent SEVERAL players on to the NHL, with quite a few more top picks currently in the NCAA/AHL waiting their turn. In the U.S., people watch college basketball before they'd watch the D-league. The USHL is college basketball. The ECHL is the CBA. Younger players, not technically "pro," but a fast, exciting product full of the top college-aged players in the United States. As I've said, I'm willing to give the ECHL a chance, but rarely do two teams last in a market long, and I hope it's the Ice that survive.
        • Diet Pepsi
          It doesn't make much sense that an ECHL team would play out of Pepsi and the Ice continue to play out of Pan Am AND BLF. You have to have facilities commensurate with the level of play and scale of fan base/sponsors. Even with the renovation Pepsi will not have the amenities expected by the privileged, BLF does. I'll wager this is the last season for the Ice and the Fuel will play out of BLF. There would be too much competition for fans and BLF is just easier to get to than Pepsi.
          • Wish it was the AHL
            It should be a higher level than the Ice, but it seems strange that Indy couldn't support an AHL team considering some of the much smaller cities (and warm weather locations) that have AHL franchises. I hope they do a much better job marketing the product than the Ice have done, but I'm not that hopeful if they've already settled on the name "Fuel". Why not build some interest by seeking naming ideas from the public? How about Slashers?
          • Ice v Fuel - education and marketing needed
            Indianapolis is not a hockey town. I am thrilled with a new team. Clearly there are people commenting here that are clueless and likely will never attend a game. THE ICE IS NOT A PROFESSIONAL TEAM. While they may have some talent and decent NHL prospects, most are kids, living away from home, and attending local high schools. Some have scholarship offers to great hockey colleges, but they are not pros. There doesn't need to be a division locally between fan bases. Unfortunately, the Ice probably can't sustain the costs of playing at Banker's Life.
          • Fishers New Arena
            Who's going to play in Fishers new Stadium being built near Saxony?
          • Bring it
            While the Junior team Ice have been good in the past, they are leagues behind actual professional hockey. Even AA level. With three Indiana teams, Indy stands to handily win in gaining business from fans traveling in from Ft Wayne and Evansville. I69 will make it almost a perfect series between the two. In the terms of rivals the one coming between Ft Wayne Indy and Evansville could be one of the best in sports.
          • Y2K
            Puckhead..The players in the ECHL are not going to live their dreams of making the big show but there have been well over 500 make it to the ECHL. So this is not just a league that feeds AHL teams with 4th line players. I watched Petr Mrazek a goalie play in Toledo then play 2 games in the NHL with the Red Wings and then be sent down to win a Championship with the Grand Rapid Griffins. And he's played 1 game this year with Detroit and pitched a shutout. And there are many other players recently who have earned a shot at the NHL. So I would say it's unfair to say these are just potentially 4th players in the AHL. Yes some may never see a day passed the ECHL but the quality is very good. And the CHL you remember has drastically changed although it seems to be a league that is sputtering with teams folding and switching leagues. The quality is still light years better then the ICE days. One thing on the ECHL you'll notice is that the goalies are more then likely going to be your best prospects. This is still a young league so there will be those moments when you're shaking your head at a bonehead play. The speed is great and the players are physical and play with heart just like any other minor league player. I know Indy fans will enjoy the product and most of all you get to see your old friends in the Komets, Clones, Kwings, Toledo and Evansville is building a strong fan base and has a great arena to boot. I can't wait to come down for a game and be home before midnight.
          • Replace Jr Ice too!
            Maybe the Fuel will provide a competitive travel youth program that will replace those idiots that run the Indiana Jr. Ice.
          • Racers!
            Why not the Indianapolis Racers? Back in the 70's those were the best hockey years here in Indy, and don't forget Hockey Bob. He was the best!
          • Ice
            I may be wrong, but I doubt that this market will successfully support 2 teams/programs. Although both will offer a good product I would think the new team will have a leg up just because they will be playing at the newly renovated Coliseum...assuming the prices are the same. It seems that it is more convenient to attend games at the coliseum as opposed to going downtown...i think.
          • Ice war?
            As a puckhead, the existence of two teams should excite me, because that means double the hockey. But what I fear is that this will bring about acrimony and division in the hockey fanbase here. We already have a team. And, when it comes to quality of hockey and entertainment value, it's a step up from the CHL team we used to have, and the ECHL is only a *slight* step up from that level. The USHL team we have now regularly sends top players to the NHL. The ECHL is full of long-shot prospects and guys who are trying to make it on an AHL team's fourth line. My hope is that this doesn't negatively affect the Ice, like the "ice wars" in Cincinnati and other markets have done. We have a hockey team, one that won the U.S. national championship in 2009. It puts out a great product, the best we've seen since the demise of the IHL Ice in 1999.
            • The Ice isn't "professional"
              The Ice is junior hockey - not professional. Junior hockey is different from minor league, which this will be.
            • back?
              Professional hockey never left. the Ice still play downtown...
              • Hockey Bob?
                Can we get Hockey Bob back for this new team? He was really good at calling hockey.
              • Hockey Name
                If you own the team then you can choose the name...just sayin....in all due respect!!! I am glad we have professional hockey back in Indy. Can't wait to drop the puck.
              • Omage
                I bet this is some sort of omage to Indy's racing heritage but mark my words the first cliches from any sports writers will be, "running on empty" and "choking on fumes."
              • Great News -- but "Fuel?"
                This is great news. The name, however, isn't. Put it up for a contest! Don't name it Racers, however. Leave it with its own history intact.
                • Name
                  Soooooooo stoked for Pro Hockey but "Fuel" that s@cks. Caps, Checkers, or measure fan interest by letting fans pick name.
                • Fuel
                  Still better than "Eleven"...I can't say that name without thinking of spinal tap.
                • Fuel?
                  Nickname "Fuel" should be a non-starter.

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