New pro hockey team headed to Wythe County with redevelopment of Apex Center

Published: Nov. 7, 2022 at 2:48 PM EST
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WYTHE COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ/Wythe County Release) - Professional hockey is about to have a new home in Virginia.

Wythe County announced Monday it will lease the 5,330-seat, 90,000-square foot Appalachian Exposition (Apex) Center at Exit 77 to Apex Drive Holdings, LLC (ADH). ADH’s renewable 10-year lease will bring hockey, other indoor sports, concerts and events to the center, which opened in 2019.

“It’s going to take tough work, hard long hours to make something like this successful and we’re going to do it.” said ADH President Barry Soskin.

ADH is a new partnership of experienced hockey executives, event promoters and sports and entertainment investors, according to the county. The group expects to field a team in the Federal Prospects Hockey League, a growing 12-year-old league stretching from northern New York to Biloxi, Miss., in the south, and from Danbury, Ct., in the east to Port Huron, Mich. in the west.

The team will be the FPHL’s first Virginia entry starting with the 2023-24 season joining Winston-Salem’s Carolina Thunderbirds as the two most central teams in the league.

The FPHL currently plays a 60-game season between October and April, so the plan is for the Apex Center will host at least 30 home hockey games a year.

ADH plans to promote concerts, youth and league sports, skating events, conventions, expos and other large public draws.

“I hope we bring things that make people want to come and use the facility,” Soskin said. “This is all about the community using this building and they haven’t since it was built, in my opinion.”

The partnership capitalizes on Wythe County’s past investments in the venue.

“It helps them to establish a market and here and it helps us to see revenue that we can either turn back into the county for reuse or we can reinvest in the building,” Assistant Wythe County Administrator Matthew Hankins said.

This franchise doesn’t have a name yet, but Soskin hopes to get fans involved in the naming process.

“I want them to be your team, the community’s team,” he said. “What do you want it to be called? I have no pony in the race. What do you want it to be called? We’ll have name the team contest.”

Hankins says the lease will begin in December or January and work to turn the arena into an ice rink will also begin soon.

“We need do the climate control, everything that’s necessary to turn this into a functioning hockey venue, including setting up locker rooms, getting concessions ready, making sure that the climate control works, so there’s a lot for us to do over the next nine months, but we’re ready to do it because this is a big deal for with county,” he said.