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The Quad-City Mallards play their final ECHL game last month against the Cincinnati Cyclones. There's still a possibility for the Quad-Cities to have hockey for the 23rd straight year as TaxSlayer Center executive director Scott Mullen has ownership groups still interested in different leagues.

The prospect of hockey remaining in the Quad-Cities is still alive.

While the TaxSlayer Center was initially given a May 15 deadline by the Southern Professional Hockey League to have an ownership group in place, executive director Scott Mullen said the league has allowed him more time to continue trying to find a group willing to keep hockey in the area for the 23rd straight season.

The Quad-City Mallards ceased hockey operations in April after the 2017-18 ECHL season after owner Jordan Melville announced he would no longer fund the team the month before. Since then, Mullen has been working to get an ownership group in to ensure hockey would remain in the Quad-Cities for next season.

"We all thought this would be done by now but we've got moving pieces that just keep changing," Mullen said.

Mullen says there are still potential ownership groups interested, including one that came forward Monday. He said he doesn't have a firm deadline or timetable on when a deal needs to be done in order for a team to be in the SPHL for next season.

SPHL president Jim Combs could not be reached for comment.

"We're still working on it," Mullen said. "We still have interested people and we're just working through the process and these things don't happen overnight. We want to make sure that it's a solid group in place that has the best chance for success and it will shake itself out, one way or the other."

Mullen said there are also ownership groups interested in the USHL, the only Tier I junior hockey league in the United States. However, that league held its draft earlier this month, so the only realistic way a team can be in place for next season is if one already established relocates to Moline. Otherwise, the area would have to wait until the 2019-20 season for a team to join the league.

The SPHL provides a better option for hockey next season.

Mullen said the arena has given the SPHL a list of available dates so the league could work on a schedule. The SPHL, which is currently a 10-team league, plays a 56-game schedule, which has not been released yet.

Despite no ownership group in place yet, there have been positive signs in the meantime.

The TaxSlayer Center held a season ticket renewal drive during the Mallards' final weekend and received an estimated 350 deposits, about half of their season ticket base. Considering the uncertainty surrounding the sport, Mullen feels that's a good number he has shown to potential owners and sponsors.

Last week the Moline City Council gave initial approval to add another two percent to the promotional tax on events, raising it from three percent to five percent.

The tax is not on the consumer, but would tax the promoters for events that come to the TaxSlayer Center based on ticket sales and Mullen estimates it could provide at least an additional $160,000 for the building, depending on how many tickets are sold over the year.

"It's a tax on the shows that play here, not the fans," Mullen said. "The promoter pays the tax and it's based on ticket sales so if you have $100,000 in ticket sales, there's going to be a $5,000 tax."

That could help offset things like traffic control costs before and after games but more importantly could provide both a hockey team as well as the Quad-City Steamwheelers Champions Indoor Football team a cushion to help if needed.

"It just makes it a more attractive market for people to want to come here," Mullen said. "We know it costs a lot to play a game here but we're going to help."

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Sports reporter for the Quad-City Times