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Rush make major ownership group change

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Josh Dickinson, of the Utah Grizzlies, tries to keep the puck from Riley Weselowski, left, and Michael Turner, of the Rapid City Rush, during the first period of a game at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in December.

The Rapid City Rush announced a change Friday in the ownership structure of the team.

Scott Mueller, the majority owner of the Rush, said that long-time partners Barry and Luke Peterson are leaving the team and are being replaced by Jeff Dickerson and T.J. Puchyr of Spire Sports + Entertainment.

"The biggest thing is their sports industry knowledge," Mueller said in press conference Friday at the Ice Arena at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. "It’s about putting people in seats, selling advertising and they have a lot of knowledge on that. He (Dickerson) sees so many venues, and I think he’s going to be involved in changes that are needed."

Dickerson, whose company is based in North Carolina, said he looks forward to joining the ownership group.

"It feels good. We're excited and anxious," he said at the press conference. "We've taken some steps in the last few months. These are great days for us, and we're really excited about our future."

The move comes at the midway point of the East Coast Hockey League season. The Rush, now in their 11th season in Rapid City, are currently in sixth place in the league’s Mountain Division with a 15-18-2-3 record.

Rush Coach Daniel Tetrault welcomed the news

"I've only met Jeff a couple of times, but he's a good guy, very personable,” he said. “He invested in the Rapid City Rush and he's from out of town. So, he knows there's a lot of potential. We're starting to win a little more, and I know he can help out, not only by getting fans in the seats, but team-wise."

The shake-up in ownership will also mean a new agreement between the Rush and the civic center, according to civic center executive director Craig Baltzer.

In November, the civic center board of directors voted to pay the Rush $73,000 to offset financial losses. The Rush and the civic center also agreed to a $108,000 rent deduction to play in the civic center.

Baltzer said there could be a deal by the Rush's Feb. 8 home game against the Wichita Thunder. He declined to go into specifics but did say he is excited about the new addition to the ownership group.

"I think this a huge direction change," he said. "They're a young company, they’re energetic, they know how to bring value to communities. I think they’re the right group."

Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender said the change in ownership is great news for the city and Rush fans.

“The ownership group includes a new partner with an impressive record in sports ownership, management and marketing, which will be key to sparking increased interest in the Rush moving forward,” the mayor said. “It's also important to retain a local owner in the mix, who represents strong passion for the team and maintaining professional hockey's presence in the area."

This isn’t their first foray into professional sports for Spire Sports + Entertainment. In the fall of 2018, the group purchased the charter of Furniture Row Racing and will participate in the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series this year.

“We have been looking for several years to find something in minor league sports and see if what we do in motorsports translates to this space. Our due diligence indicates that it does,” Puchyr said.

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