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New CHL franchise for Bloomington

According to a published report, management of U.S. Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington, Ill., have reached an agreement in principle that will displace the PrairieThunder and make two East Coast investors the owners of a new CHL franchise in Bloomington.

The Central Illinois Arena management announced it has a letter of intent from insurance executive Gary DelBuono of Boston and pharmaceutical executive Sandra Hunnewell of New Jersey to place a new CHL franchise in the downtown arena for 2011-12, reported Thursday.

The new three-year deal is expected to be official June 1, the website reported.

Tim Leighton, the primary owner of the PrairieThunder for three years, said he was not aware negotiations with Coliseum officials had ended. John Butler, president of the arena management company, told the website that contact with Leighton has been minimal since the lease expired.

The CHL was able to issue franchise rights for a new team in Bloomington because the International Hockey League was never legally dissolved, the website attributed IHL commissioner Dennis Hextall as saying.

Teams such as the Komets, PrairieThunder and the recently folded Quad City legally were IHL franchises playing in the CHL last season, Hextall said.

PrairieThunder general manager Jim Riggs said season-ticket orders for next season that have been submitted by credit card will not be processed and checks will be returned. Both Riggs and coach Jason Christie remain under contract with the PrairieThunder.

DelBuono said the new franchise will have a new nickname and color scheme.

– Journal Gazette