COLUMBUS, Ga – The Southern Professional Hockey League has terminated the application for the Columbus Burn, putting the return of professional hockey to the city on ice.
SPHL president Jim Combs has confirmed to News 3 that the league is no longer working with Fidel Jenkins, the New York real estate investor who presented a plan to replace the Columbus Cottonmouths with the Columbus Burn. The Cottonmouths ceased operations in June.
“We are no longer working with Mr Jenkins for an SPHL team,” said Combs.
On June 20, Jenkins came to Columbus and presented a plan to potential sponsors that included attendance-based fan giveaways other incentives. He unveiled new branding for the team, the Columbus Burn.
Last month, Columbus Council approved a lease for Jenkins to operate a hockey team at the Columbus Civic Center. That lease is for an SPHL franchise.
Jenkins says he had a one page deal in place with the league during his initial application. Combs has stated some financial obligations from Jenkins on that deal needed to be reached by a August 1 deadline. The league would not reveal the amount of those financial obligations.
Jenkins says he missed that payment deadline.
The initial deal included a $125,000 franchise fee according to Jenkins. Jenkins says he was on medical leave from work for “early Lyme disease treatment”, which is why he missed the deadline. He says he understood that not closing the initial deal would mean future deals would come with a higher price tag.
“I knew that if anything went wrong, that it would go to a higher price,” said Jenkins. “I didn’t like it, but I agreed to it,” he added.
Jenkins says while he was renegotiating a new deal, he initiated the payment to the league from a business payroll account. He says during that time, he was contacted by the league that they were going to rescind the initial offer and negotiate a new deal. Jenkins says he rescinded his payment after receiving the new 12-page deal.
“That agreement we had never seen before,” said Jenkins. “We went from a one page document to a 12 page agreement,” said Jenkins.
According to Jenkins, the new agreement had errors, typos and wrong company names.
“We took a week modifying the agreement, marking it up to correct it,” said Jenkins. “And when we sent it back to the league, they were focused on getting a large payment and did not address any of our issues fully,” said Jenkins. “That was the challenge,” he added.
“We asked yesterday, can you (the SPHL) please reconsider and look at what we’re saying, and we can address their issues…and we can come to an agreement,” said Jenkins.
“I was informed today they decided to terminate our application and they’re going to refund our fees,” said Jenkins.
Jenkins says he still plans to bring professional hockey back to Columbus.
“It’s our intention to stay in Columbus and bring a hockey team back,” said Jenkins. “I’ll be reaching out to the East Coast Hockey League tomorrow and seeing what we can do there” he added.
“I don’t have anything negative to say about the SPHL,” said Jenkins. “I can’t state that enough,” he added.
“It’s just unfortunate,” said Jenkins.
The SPHL says they will begin looking for a suitable owner for the Columbus market.