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Kelowna Rockets announce bid to host 2026 Memorial Cup

After losing the chance to host the 2020 Memorial Cup due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kelowna Rockets will hope that plays into the selection process this year.

“We still feel it is owed to us, and somewhere down the line that opportunity will come back to us,” GM Bruce Hamilton told RocketFan.ca in an April 2023 interview, a sentiment he emphasized again this morning.

Hamilton and the rest of the Rockets organization will find out whether it’s owed to Kelowna in a few months, as the club officially announced a bid to host the 2026 tournament today.

The bid letter was sent in on Wednesday, which is the very first part of a lengthy process that will ramp up with the formation of a Memorial Cup bid committee over the coming weeks.

<who>Photo Credit: KelownaNow</who>Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton (L) and Mayor Tom Dyas at Thursday morning's press conference.

A major talking point around the 2026 bid will be upgrades to Prospera Place.

When the Kamloops Blazers won the bid for the 2023 Memorial Cup on May 27, the Rocket issued a statement saying the organization “wanted nothing more” to host the 2023 tournament.

However, an audit of Prospera Place found that the building had “significant deficiencies” that needed to be upgraded to meet new Canadian Hockey League standards for hosting the Memorial Cup.

The statement noted that an agreement between the organization, City of Kelowna and GSL Group, who own, operate and manage the arena, could not be made in time to bid for the 2023 tournament.

GSL Group’s agreement with the City to operate Prospera Place ends in 2029 and the City has expressed its desire to find a new operator to take over when that happens.

<who>Photo Credit: KelownaNow</who>Prospera Place will need upgrades if the Rockets want to host the 2026 Memorial Cup.

That didn’t stop GSL Group from submitting a proposal for a new agreement in January that outlined plans for significant upgrades and a long-term vision for the 25-year-old arena.

Without a new agreement reached, it means the City will be tasked with funding the upgrades needed to bring Prospera Place up to the standard needed to host the 2026 Memorial Cup.

During today's announcement, Mayor Tom Dyas, who was the chair of Kelowna's 2020 Memorial Cup host committee, said council has approved the allocation of $3.7 million to pay for upgrades to Prospera Place.

He noted that the upgrades will serve more than just a potential Memorial Cup hosting opportunity, as they will also make sure the arena is best-suited to host other major events like the Montana's Brier and CCMA's Country Music Week and Awards, both of which Kelowna will host in 2025.

Dyas also boasted about an economic impact of more than $15 million that would result from Kelowna hosting the annual May tournament to determine the champions of the Canadian Hockey League.


The Rockets are the first team to announce a bid for the 2026 tournament, which has to be hosted by a WHL club after the OHL's Saginaw Spirit hosted it this year and the QMJHL's Rimouski Oceanic are set to host in 2025.

There has been plenty of buzz behind a potential bid by the Medicine Hat Tigers, who would be able to build a competitive roster around projected 2026 first-overall NHL draft pick Gavin McKenna.

Hamilton said all the cities and organizations that have announced bids for the 2026 Memorial Cup should be made known later today, and speculated that a couple of American teams could be in the running.

According to Hamilton, the host of the 2026 Memorial Cup will be announced on Dec. 14, 2024.



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