Michael Burks – In His Own Words On Missoula Maulers Demise – Says Glacier Ice Rink ‘Lied’ About Lease Issue
Michael Burks says he is 'heartbroken' over the way the Missoula Maulers ended their relationship with the Glacier Ice Rink this week, but that he wanted to tell the story of what really happened in his own words.
"Basically, the Missoula Maulers has had the same lease for nine years," Burks said. "I personally put in over a half-million dollars into the rink, as it wasn't suitable to host a junior hockey league team. When I started, the rink was simply ice over dirt, so I put in the bleachers, the concrete, the concessions, the locker rooms, sound and lights, basically everything other than the dirt and the rink."
Burks said he was shocked to see the new lease proposal recently presented to the maulers by the Glacier Ice Rink.
"I was kind of shocked when I received the lease," he said. "There were changes that increased my fees, and started taking commissions off dasher boards and such that had never been done before. It didn't amount to a tremendous amount of money, but what I asked the rink was after losing over $133,000 last year, I simply asked the rink if we could leave the lease the way it was the last nine years, and their response was simply 'this is the way it's going to be, if you don't like it, we're at an impasse.' So, after nine years and investing over $1.2 million dollars in junior hockey in Missoula, I felt it might just be that time then."
Burks explained the press release distributed by his attorneys from Helena at Luxan and Murfitt.
"To get this done amicably, the press release from my attorney didn't name any names, didn't list any reasons, just simply 'we agree to disagree' and called it quits," Burks said. "Unfortunately, the Glacier Ice Rink lied, pointing fingers towards me telling everybody that they were shocked, that I would not negotiate and that they had no idea this was coming, when in fact their own attorney told me that'it was their way or the highway'.
"The truth is simply this, I didn't ask for anything more or less, but only that things would stay the way they have for a decade, and basically, I couldn't afford to lose any more money. Some people are out there saying I'm a bad businessperson. Well, junior league hockey teams don't make money. What I do, I do for the kids and the community and that I absolutely love the sport."
Burks said the email that said 'we are at an impasse' crossed the line.
"I'm not going to lie, I was a little offended, and on my attorney's advice, he said I should just call it quits," he said. "The second item that offended me was they said they were still hoping to make this work, but Friday morning, I got an email from the rink's attorney telling me to get everything out of there now. My lease ends June 30th, so they said everything that I had purchased for the Missoula Maulers was to be taken out of there. Unfortunately, those items include all the lighting, all the sound, basically all the assets that I brought into that rink, and they demanded that I take them out, and so I'm going to do what they told me to do."
Following is the text of an email sent by Burks to the Glacier Ice Rink:
I have attached all the tax returns along with a spreadsheet showing the total investment that I have made since the Missoula Maulers conception.. Some of you may not know, but I have invested over $800,000 in rink improvements as well as well over $20,000 in rink contributions personally to help the parking lot as well as locker rooms..
As you can see, I have invested almost $1.5 million to allow this team to exist and contribute to the Missoula community. I don't do it for the money... I do it for the kids and the city of Missoula.
I am asking for consideration with this new lease.. Consideration that I am the one that purchased the equipment that is being used during game days and that every other user group gets the benefit of having at no cost to them or the rink. I am asking that the board realize that the Maulers bring in concession money that no other user brings in so that we should not get charged the extra cost for both. I am simply asking that things remain the same so that my losses don't increase. Last year was absolutely brutal for several reasons and that was why I approached Laura for the discounted ice time for practice..
My counter is simply this.. Please don't ask for more money from an organization that has made the rink enormous profits by increasing the user numbers over the past decade while losing hundreds of $1000's in the meantime.
Burks said he still wants to see a junior hockey league team in Missoula, and will do whatever he can for anyone who wants to assume ownership of the team.
"If there was any person in Missoula that had a dream of owning a junior team, I would absolutely sell everything the Missoula Maulers had to make the transition seamless, and I would be by their side for any questions that they needed answered."
Burks owns several other businesses throughout Montana including the Garden of Read'n, the online-based Hockey World, and several Fuel Fitness Centers, with gyms opening soon in Missoula and Kalispell.
He also still owns the junior league hockey team in Butte.
(All photos used in the above YouTube video used by express permission of Michael Burks)