On Monday, KGVO News received the following press release from Michael Burks, former owner of the Missoula Maulers Junior Hockey team in response to fundraising efforts undertaken by the Glacier Ice Rink. It reads (emphasis ours):

Due to Glacier Ice Rink’s recent statements to the press and on social media, Michael Burks and Missoula Maulers, Inc. are forced to respond.

Mr. Burks and Missoula Maulers, Inc. do not wish to hamper the Rink’s fundraising efforts but are disappointed that the Rink has chosen to attempt to raise money based on half-truths and misstatements to the public about Mr. Burks and Missoula Maulers, Inc.

In recent online and social media posting, the Rink has stated that Missoula Maulers, Inc. and Mr. Burks have removed the bleachers, sound system and locker room improvements. The Rink goes on to state that it was under the “impression” that the improvements made to the rink were a donation and indicated how “extremely disheartened” the Rink was when “he removed everything.” The Rink has also indicated that it attempted to purchase the bleachers from Mr. Burks and Missoula Maulers, Inc. but “he didn’t accept the offer.”  While it is certainly appropriate that the Rink fundraise, and both Missoula Maulers, Inc. and Mr. Burks wish the Rink nothing but success in its future endeavors, it is not appropriate that the Rink fundraise on the back of misleading half-truths and false statements which inappropriately and unnecessarily damage the character of Mr. Burks and Missoula Maulers, Inc.

The following timeline of events is helpful in understanding the situation:

May 11, 2016:  After having the same lease for 9 years the Rink presented a one-year lease that increased costs dramatically, making it impossible for Missoula Maulers to continue operations at the Glacier Ice Rink.  Mr. Burks requested that the lease remain unchanged, based on the extensive rink improvements he made.  The Rink refused, and ended negotiations by declaring that they were at an ‘impasse’.

 May 13, 2016:  The Rink demanded removal of all Maulers property by end of lease, or it would be discarded at Maulers expense. These items included all locker room inventory and equipment, all sound, all special effect lights, all bleachers and any other physical item that was not included in the $750,000 capital investment made in 2005 to the property of the Glacier Ice Rink personally by the Missoula Maulers.

May 16, 2016:  Missoula Maulers and Western States Hockey League presented a deal to the Glacier Ice Rink in which 100% of the Missoula Maulers’ assets would be transferred to the Western States Hockey League for monetary conditions from the league and no cost to the Glacier Ice Rink. Every item, including the team bus, all computers, lights, sound, locker room inventory and of course bleachers, would remain intact at Glacier Ice Rink at no cost to the rink.

May 20, 2016:   Without notice, the Glacier Ice Rink formed a partnership with another league, leaving the Western States Hockey League no other choice than to void the deal with the Missoula Maulers due to the fact that they were no longer allowed to play in the Glacier Ice Rink venue.

May 23, 2016:   The Missoula Maulers offered to sell the bleachers to the Rink but received no response or offer for over 3 weeks. 

June 15, 2016:  The Rink, through its counsel, offered to purchase the bleachers for $5,000, indicating that the bleachers were old and were effectively worth their value as scrap.  Also on this date, counsel for the Rink presented Mr. Burks and Missoula Maulers, Inc. with a threat (although counsel was careful to say that it should not be taken as a threat):  Either accept the payment and leave the bleachers or choose to remove them – in which case the media would be present and the cameras would be rolling.  The clear implication from the Rink was that, if the Maulers chose to take their property, the Rink intended to utilize the media to punish the Maulers for such a choice.   At 5 cents on the replacement dollar, the Missoula Maulers were forced to decline the offer and follow through on the rinks’ demands of 05/11/2016 and remove their property.

June 26, 2016:   Glacier Ice Rink published request on their website as well as Facebook for the public to pay $100,000 for an asset that they wanted to pay the Missoula Maulers $5,000 for when in fact MAYHA had over 4 times that amount in their account as of November 9th, 2015 (according to minutes available on the Rink’s website).

It is important to note that, from the beginning, the only asset in dispute between the Rink and the Maulers were the bleachers on the east side of the Rink. Interestingly, the Rink did not dispute that bleachers on the north side of the rink (of substantially the same type, although smaller) could be removed. It is, therefore, entirely disingenuous of the Rink to express “disappointment” that other improvements were removed or to claim that the Rink believed the items were donated. For example, the parties’ original lease states – in unequivocal language – that “the entirety of the sound system installed by Tenant in 2007 shall remain the property of the Tenant.” Also interesting is a recent conversation between Mr. Burks and Mr. Matteo (the owner of the new Junior team) wherein Mr. Matteo expressed his approval that the North bleachers had been removed as he intended to remove them anyway.

Furthermore, the lease also states as follows: “Tenant [Maulers] will have the right, at any time during the term of this lease, to remove any improvements, fixtures, machinery and equipment installed by Tenant during the term of this lease that are moveable or can be removed without damaging the Premises or interfering with the plumbing, heating, air conditioning, ventilation, lighting, electrical equipment, and other such equipment in the Premises.” It was this provision under with the Maulers and Mr. Burks elected to remove the bleachers – again the ONLY asset Mr. Burks and the Maulers sought to remove which was disputed by the Rink. The clear language of the lease and Montana law permitted such removal. While the Rink may have been disappointed to lose the East bleachers, their efforts to negatively portray Mr. Burks and the Maulers for electing to remove their property is unacceptable. Further, it is unreasonable for the Rink to attempt to raise money to replace the bleachers by making Mr. Burks out to be the bad guy. Mr. Burks and the Maulers were simply asserting their rights to the property – just as any tenant would do when vacating a leased premises at the end of a lease term.

It is also worth noting that Mr. Burks and the Maulers leave the Rink with hundreds of thousands of dollars in improvements including a concrete floor, concessions area, 3 locker rooms, a heating system, and the entire upstairs.  The fact is this: Every item removed from the Rink on Saturday, June 25th , was agreed to by the Rink with the exception of the bleachers. It is false and misleading for the Rink to now claim their “impression that the improvements . . . were a donation.”

Further, their requests for money indicate that they “don’t have the money to do this.” However, according Missoula Area Youth Hockey Association’s board meeting minutes from November 9, 2015, available online at Glacier Ice Rink’s website, the board had $465,000 in the bank as of the end of October, 2015. Further, the December, 2015 minutes reflect income greater and costs lower than the approved budget. Mr. Burks and Missoula Maulers, Inc. wish the Rink all the best with respect to its current fundraising efforts. However, when asking for contributions of Missoulians’ hard-earned money, it is important that the Rink provide all the facts. Unfortunately, for reasons that remain unclear, the Rink instead chose to provide half-truths and misinformation.

KGVO News has reached out to management of the Glacier Ice Rink, and received the following response:

While we disagree with the characterization of Glacier Ice Rink as presented in the press release above, we would rather focus our efforts and attention on the future. We're looking forward to improving the facility so we can best meet the needs of our customers.