After months of exhaustive investigations into the best ways to operate the team for the 2004-05 Elite League season, the directors and management of the Manchester Phoenix have confirmed their decision to withdraw from competition for one season.
Managing Director Neil Morris said, "having been unable to secure a viable deal at the MEN Arena we have looked into a myriad of potential options for playing out of various venues. With the full support of the Elite League Board and having engaged in an open forum with the fantastic supporters in order to secure the longer term future of the club we concluded that to honourably withdraw for one season is the best solution."
The club formally announced last Tuesday plans to develop a 3000-seat temporary facility that can be erected and completed in plenty of time for the 2005-06 season. Working in conjunction with investors, facility management consultants and local councils, the club are extremely close to securing the necessary 'green lights' to commence construction of its new home and what will become the newest public ice facility in the country.
Morris continued, "Manchester deserves and needs a public skating venue as much as we need a new home for the team. This venture will provide just such an opportunity. The ice sports fraternity will be welcome, the public will gain a valuable leisure and recreational facility and the Phoenix will benefit. Add to that, the opportunity for the councils and further developers to witness an operational model in action and the future for ice sports begins to look a whole lot rosier than it did this time last year when the Altrincham facility closed."
A club spokesperson added, "Not playing this year is of course disappointing especially after the way we finished last year reaching the playoff semi-finals. However, that experience has merely whetted our appetite to ensure that the year we don't play is put to the best possible use in securing not only the new venue, but further developing the club infrastructure and building the support programmes for junior development and ensuring a sound economic platform for the team in time for re-commencement of play."
Membership of the Elite League remains a vital part of the development plan and Morris advised, "the other clubs and their directors fully support our decision not to jeopardise the future of hockey in Manchester by potentially incurring insurmountable financial problems. As a club, we are totally committed to the Elite League - having been a founder member - and we will continue to be represented at all Board Meetings and involved in the decision making processes for progression and development of the league into the future. Of course we will watch with envy as the other clubs battle for the honours this season, but suggest they enjoy the limelight as when we return to playing, we will be stronger, fitter and raring to go in 2005-06 after twelve months of preparation."
He closed saying, "every cloud has a silver lining and ours is clearly evident with the fact that we will have once again in Manchester our own facility, fully integrated community, schools and junior development programmes and a thoroughly researched and re-vitalised team for 2005-06 Elite League season".
If you believe in a dream for long enough it becomes reality - Neil Morris - April 2003.