When the ECHL first announced the return of professional hockey to Bloomington, Illinois, local fanbases were skeptical. After having a handful of professional teams in the market before them, the Bison set out to accomplish long-term success in Illinois.
In a recent media release, the Bison announced they’ve received 624 deposits on season ticket packages and 300+ applications for employment. Grossinger Motors Arena’s current seating capacity is 5,600 for hockey-related events, making the 624 deposits an impressive early number. This is even more impressive if you compare the ECHL Iowa Heartlanders; they are only drawing 1,983 fans per game.
The Bison are running a special for the first 1,000 deposit holders; click here for details.
Will Bloomington Be Successful This Time?
Prior to the 2024-25 version of the Bloomington Bison, Bloomington has been home to three other franchises, the PraireThunder of the IHL/UHL before merging with the Central Hockey League, the Thunder of the Southern Professional Hockey League, and the Flying Aces of the USHL.
IHL/UHL – 2006-2010
CHL – 2010-2011
CHL – 2011-2013
SPHL – 2013-2014
Bloomington Thunder/Central Illinois Flying Aces
USHL (Thunder) – 2014-2017
USHL (Flying Aces) – 2017-2019.
How the Bloomington Bison Can Be Different
One thing that stuck out to me after the announcement of the Bison was the reaction from generic North American hockey fans vs. some of the local fans in the Illinois area. Most of the commentary was focused on the teams who had failed in this market and doubted the success of the Bison from day one. This staunch negativity piqued my interest and sent me searching for answers.
In my search, I found a Facebook Group for local Bloomington Bison fans. This Group is run by a local hockey fan, Jeremy Johnson. Jeremy was kind enough to take some time to chat with me and answer some of the questions that we outsiders have.
Question: What makes you believe the Bison have a fighting chance of being different from the other organizations that have come through Bloomington?
When the other team’s were around, hockey was fairly new to this town. The Public Ice Arena [Bloomington Ice Center] and youth hockey have been around and growing stronger than ever over the last 10+ years. I truly believe the fan base has grown over that time. I personally grew up a Peoria Rivermen fan and remember the ECHL days; that quality of hockey has been missed. This town is about to experience hockey like they have never seen, and I am excited for that.Jeremy Johnson
Question: How can this organization help hockey in Bloomington grow?
Promote. Promote. Promote. Amazing promotions keep people coming. Having an amazing game experience will go a long way to keeping people in seats. I have loved what I heard about this ownership group already and how they pride themselves on the whole fan experience. As an avid hockey fan, that’s what has been missing in Bloomington.Jeremy Johnson
Regardless of your opinion on this franchise, the proof is in the results. The Bloomington area has plenty of hockey fans who are hungry for professional hockey. Recently, the SPHL Peoria Rivermen played the Quad City Storm at Grossinger Motors Arena, and an astounding 5,600+ hockey fans packed the building. Things are just starting to heat up in Bloomington as we await notice on the team’s NHL Affiliation and the beloved Jersey reveal. We will update you when those dates are announced!