After two years of holding training camp in the Fort Worth Convention Center Arena, the Dallas Stars are moving to Cedar Park.
The Stars will make camp at the Cedar Park Center, home of the franchise’s American Hockey League affiliate Texas Stars. The dates have not been set, but the camp is usually in mid-September.
The change of scenery seemed natural after Stars owner Tom Gaglardi purchased the minor league affiliate last fall and set up an operational agreement with the city-owned arena.
But looking back on the Stars’ short stint at the Fort Worth Convention Center, the past two training camps had flaws.
In the Stars’ first trip to Fort Worth in 2013, one of two ice chillers, part of an antiquated ice plant in the arena, broke.
“We almost lost the ice, which really would have been bad,” convention center public events director Kirk Slaughter said.
When the Stars returned to Fort Worth last fall, they knew the ice situation wasn’t great. However, the accessibility of the Omni Hotel next to the convention center combined with the organization’s positive relationship with Mayor Betsy Price brought the team back.
“We love Fort Worth and Fort Worth is great for us, logistically and otherwise,” Stars president and CEO Jim Lites said.
A month before last year’s training camp, convention center officials started the ice plant for a test run only to find one of the chillers was inoperable.
Mechanics worked for a month to find the problem and a $5,000 part was located three hours before the process of building the ice needed to begin, Slaughter said.
“I was about three or four hours away from having to call the Dallas Stars last year and let them know that, because of our equipment, we weren’t going to be able to make ice,” Slaughter said.
When discussions began to bring the team back to Fort Worth, Slaughter and his staff advised the Stars to look elsewhere.
“I hope everyone understands that it’s been an honor to have them in Fort Worth. I just don’t have the confidence that we can deliver the product that they need to be successful,” he said. “I couldn’t take the risk on hurting their event.
“They’re just too important. Their training camp is such an important event. It’s got to happen.”
Lites also cited low vacancy in the Omni Hotel the weekend the organization needed because of the TCU vs. SMU football game as another reason the organization elected to take training camp to Cedar Park.
“This had nothing to do with us not liking Fort Worth,” Lites said. “It’s just the Cedar Park opportunity is significant. We control the environment.”
With little to no need for ice on the convention center arena floor anymore, there’s no point in investing up to $50,000 in repairing an antique ice plant, Slaughter said.
However, that doesn’t mean the Stars will be gone for good.
With voters electing to fund the building of a new multipurpose arena and sports facility in the city’s cultural district last November comes plans to purchase a brand new ice plant to create a quality sheet for ice events, Slaughter said.
Then, Fort Worth will be back in meetings with the Stars to host anything from training camp to exhibition games and could even make pitches for a few regular-season games, Slaughter said.
“With a lot of confidence, we can say to the Dallas Stars we have a great venue and a great city to host your training camp,” he said.
Lites said the past two years have economically been a success for the Stars and estimates that 20 percent of their 10,000 or so season-ticket holders live in Tarrant County.
Will the Stars return with a new arena in Fort Worth?
“We wouldn’t hesitate to come back,” Lites said. “If the new building gets built there — and I’m sure it’s going to in the future — no doubt we’ll be playing an exhibition there or something because Fort Worth is in our market.”