WHEELING - The Wheeling Nailers' new owners will be formally introduced today at a 4 p.m. press conference at WesBanco Arena.
Sources confirmed to The Intelligencer that the Nailers have been sold to the Regional Economic Development Partnership and the Wheeling Amateur Hockey Association. Representatives from both organizations are expected to speak at the event.
Jim Brooks, who along with his brother, Rob, has owned the franchise for the last nine years, on Monday met with the Nailers' players and told them the team would remain in Wheeling. The players declined to comment on the announcement from the Brooks brothers following the gathering.
The news comes 60 days after the Brooks brothers announced they were putting the team up for sale. According to ECHL bylaws, change in ownership must be a three-year commitment.
The sale ends a turbulent few months for fans of the team, as city officials and other groups worked hand-in-hand on the issue with both the Nailers and the ECHL.
Several "drop-dead" dates to get the sale completed that were mandated by the league came and went, fueling concern the Nailers might not be back in the Friendly City after calling it home for 20 years.
The Brooks brothers announced the team's sale during a mid-January press conference inside the team's home at WesBanco Arena. Because of their many ventures, most notably their American Hockey League team the Adirondack Phantoms, the brothers said they simply didn't have time to run an ECHL franchise any longer. They currently are in the process of getting a multi-million dollar arena built for the Phantoms in Allentown, Pa.
Several different groups, both local and otherwise, were rumored to have been interested in acquiring the Nailers during the process, but in the end Rob and Jim Brooks elected to go with RED and WAHA, assuring the team will remain local.
The RED contingent is headed by Don Rigby, the organization's executive director.
WAHA is represented by Tim Roberts, a former Wheeling Thunderbird and an ex-Wheeling Central Catholic hockey coach who has been highly instrumental in the growth of the sport in the Ohio Valley.
The Nailers' performance on the ice may have played a factor.
The team advanced to the Eastern Conference Finals a season ago, and is on the verge of clinching a second consecutive playoff berth - the third in four seasons.
Attendance also has risen. The team is averaging more than 3,000 fans a night this season and has hit that mark in seven of the last nine games.
The final regular-season home game is set for 7:35 p.m. Saturday against the Elmira Jackals.
Rigby and Roberts were not available for comment Monday.