The speculation is true: the Vancouver Giants are relocating to the Langley Events Centre.
The Western Hockey League squad will continue to be called the Vancouver Giants, despite the move, and will begin their era in Langley starting in the 2016/17 season.
The news was confirmed during a Tuesday morning press conference at the LEC.
“This is a decision that allows us to relocate to an area where a very high percentage of our core demographic live,” Giants majority owner Ron Toigo said, about making the move to the LEC from the Pacific Coliseum.
“It also allows us to have a home venue whose size will enable us to sell out games, create a fun game night atmosphere and give the team some real home ice advantage.”
Toigo said this decision “is not a reflection on the PNE or its staff.”
“This is a business decision based on creating the best environment for success for the Giants,” he continued. “We’ve enjoyed our time at the Pacific Coliseum – it’s the original home of the Vancouver Giants and a big part of our history.”
This will be the Giants’ second go-round at the LEC, after playing six games in the arena bowl (with a capacity of 5,276) between Jan. 30 and Feb. 14 of 2010, with the Pacific Coliseum being used for the Winter Olympics.
The LEC was home to the junior A Langley Rivermen, who play in the B.C. Hockey League, but with the Giants relocating to Langley, the Rivermen will be moving to the George Preston Recreation Centre, starting next season.
“We enjoyed playing up there [at the GPRC] in the playoffs, and it provides an intimate atmosphere, which is not at all bad,” Rivermen head coach and general manager Bobby Henderson said.
Since June 2011, the Rivermen had played their home games at the LEC, after the former Langley Chiefs relocated to Chilliwack.
The Vancouver Stealth also call the LEC home, and begin their National Lacrosse League season next January.
The Giants did plenty of research before deciding to make Langley their new home, commissioning a professional polling company to poll the Metro Vancouver area to see what kind of response they’d get about the move.
“This building, attendance-wise, will do very well,” Toigo predicted. “There should be a full building every night.”
He said the ambiance the LEC offers will give the Giants home-ice advantage.
“We came to a Stealth game… and I think the Stealth attendance that night was somewhere around 2,500, but the noise in this building, the ambiance of the building… and we looked at, ‘Can you imagine what it would be like if you had 4,000, 5,000, what it’d be like?” Toigo said.
That said, Toigo said the 2010 experience at the LEC was “kind of negative.”
“The traffic was a nightmare, the parking was a nightmare, but that was their first experience with anything like this,” Toigo said. “Since then, they’ve added, I think, 800 parking stalls. We’re going to be adding another access point along 200th [Street].”
The more research the Giants did, the more they realized this was the right thing to do, according to Toigo.
“We look forward to starting a whole new era here,” Toigo said. “We’ll have a new GM, a new [head] coach, and we’re going in the right direction.”
During a media scrum, Toigo said Langley and its surrounding areas “is where the growth is.”
“This is where young families are, this is where our demographic is,” Toigo said, adding that the free parking offered at the LEC will offset the toll costs of fans having to cross the Port Mann and Golden Ears bridges to watch the Giants play.
“We just felt it’s a win/win,” Toigo said. “They really want us here, and they’ve really been great to work with. The Township of Langley has kind of bent over backwards for us. There’s no subsidies, there’s no guarantees, we just feel it will work regardless.”
Langley Township Mayor Jack Froese called the community a “hockey town and an exceptional sports destination.”
“I think its a good move. Langley is a very strong hockey town and hockey region, and to get a quality hockey team like the Giants into Langley is not only great for families going to the games, but it will be a great benefit for [local] hotels and restaurants,” Froese added. “Certainly it will benefit us economically to bring a team like this in.”
“We are thrilled that the Giants are making the Langley Events Centre their new home,” Froese said.