Blue Tongues a no show for 2014 AIHL season

Queensland will be without an Australian Ice Hockey League team for the 2014 season. The Gold Coast Blue Tongues have again failed to secure a suitable location to play home games. Blue Tongues General Manager and President, Dave Emblem, announced the news earlier this week.

Photo: Pic by Wulos

The Blue Tongues were unable to compete in the 2013 competition due to lack of home ice and lost their location at Iceland Bundall late in the 2012 season after a disagreement with the rink’s ownership regarding the safety of ice conditions.

The Blue Tongues management group had been seeking investors, both local and international, for a Gold Coast-based ice facility that would house the Blue Tongues. The rink would also bring international competitions in hockey and ice skating and add an ice-based entertainment show to the Gold Coast’s attractions.

Though funding has not been secured in time for the 2014 season, the Blue Tongues still have until the 2015 season before their AIHL license is in question.

A move back to Brisbane, where the Blue Tongues played from 2005 to 2007, was considered, but there were no ice facilities in South East Queensland that were able to provide the Blue Tongues with ice time to host visiting teams for the season. Instead, Emblem and his team will continue looking for funding for the Gold Coast facility in hopes of keeping professional hockey in Queensland.

The Blue Tongues are hardly the first Gold Coast sports team to struggle to stay in the area. Ice hockey is still a niche sport in Australia, so it’s understandable the team is finding it difficult to stay in a city that has struggled even with top-tier sports such as rugby league and Australian Rules Football (AFL or Aussie Rules, colloquially).

The Gold Coast Titans now compete in the National Rugby League, but are not the first rugby league team to call the Gold Coast home. The success of the GC17 group and their targeted marketing plan brought AFL to the Gold Coast in the form of the Gold Coast Suns, but they are the only success story from of a long list of groups who have attempted to secure an AFL license.

The top-tier sports are not alone. The Gold Coast has turned over many professional sports teams in the last few decades. Some have remained, but stability is far from normal.

Gold Coast National Competition Teams

  • Rugby league – Gold Coast Chargers (New South Wales Rugby League as Gold Coast-Tweed Giants 1988-1989, as Gold Coast Seagulls 1990-1994, Australian Rugby League as Gold Coast Seagulls 1995, as Gold Coast Gladiators for 1995-1996 off-season, as Gold Coast Chargers 1996-1997, National Rugby League as Gold Coast Chargers 1998), Gold Coast Titans (National Rugby League 2007-present)
  • Australian Rules Football – Gold Coast Suns (Australian Football League, 2008-present. First AFL team despite lower-level Aussie Rules having a strong presence since 1961)
  • Rugby union – East Coast Aces (Australian Rugby Championship, 2007)
  • Basketball – Gold Coast Rollers (National Basketball League as Gold Coast Cougars 1990, as Gold Coast Rollers 1991-1996), Gold Coast Blaze (National Basketball League 2007-2012)
  • Baseball – Gold Coast Cougars (Australian Baseball League as Gold Coast Clippers 1989-1990, as Daikyo Dolphins 1990-1992, as Gold Coast Dolphins 1992-1993, as East Coast Cougars 1993-1995, as Gold Coast Cougars 1995-1999)
  • Soccer – Gold Coast United FC (A-League 2009-2012)

The Blue Tongues are in danger of joining the list of teams gone by. There is still another year before the Gold Coast team’s management and the Australian Ice Hockey League will need to reconsider their relationship. The first of many problems with keeping a team on the Gold Coast may be solved by finding investment capital and securing a venue.

Gold Coast City Council will not provide that funding, despite the strong business case presented by Dave Emblem and his team. Their recreational funds are no doubt focused on the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which Gold Coast locals are already dealing with in the form of never-ending roadworks to improve the city infrastructure to handle the large crowds. Funding will have to come from a private investor.

If the team is able to secure a venue and re-enter the competition, they can resume dealing with everything else that causes problems for professional sports teams on the Gold Coast.

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