True North Sports & Entertainment
|Industry||Sports and Entertainment|
|Headquarters||Second Floor, 345 Graham Ave.
|Mark Chipman, Chairman
Jim Ludlow, President & CEO
|Products||Winnipeg Jets (NHL), 2011–present
St. John's IceCaps (AHL), 2011–2015
Manitoba Moose (AHL), 2003–2011
Number of employees
True North Sports and Entertainment Limited (TNSE) is a Winnipeg, Manitoba based company that owns and operates the MTS Centre in downtown Winnipeg and the Winnipeg Jets of the National Hockey League. The company also owns the Jets' minor league affiliate, the St. John's IceCaps of the American Hockey League, formerly the Manitoba Moose. Aside from hockey, TNSE is also active in bringing high-profile concerts and entertainment acts to Winnipeg.
TNSE was founded in 2001 by Manitoba Moose co-owner Mark Chipman and several local investors. Their goal was to build a new entertainment and sports venue in downtown Winnipeg to help revive the city's downtown area and possibly one day bring an NHL franchise back to Winnipeg. The original Winnipeg Jets played in the city from 1972 to 1996 before relocating to Phoenix, Arizona. Ownership of the Moose was transferred to TNSE in 2003.
The 15,004-seat MTS Centre was completed in fall 2004 and became the new home of the Moose, replacing the Winnipeg Arena. The arena was built at a cost of $133.5 million on land acquired from Osmington Incorporated, a real estate firm owned by Toronto billionaire David Thomson. In exchange for the land, Osmington took a minority share in TNSE. Since its opening, the new arena has also hosted numerous concerts and other non-hockey events, and become one of the busiest entertainment venues in North America.
Since the MTS Centre's opening, Chipman and Thomson have gradually bought out TNSE's other shareholders to gain sole ownership of the company. Chipman's shares are held through his family's holding company, Megill-Stephenson Company, while Thomson's are held through Osmington Incorporated.
In summer 2010, TNSE opened the MTS Iceplex, an arena and training complex located on the western edge of Winnipeg. The Iceplex features four ice surfaces and is used by several amateur teams, local minor hockey, and recreational leagues. It also serves as the practice facility for the Winnipeg Jets.
TNSE realized its goal of landing an NHL franchise in May 2011, when it purchased the struggling Atlanta Thrashers, subsequently relocating the club to Winnipeg and renaming it the Winnipeg Jets. As a result, the Moose were relocated to St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador for the 2011–12 season and rebranded as the St. John's IceCaps, and became the top minor league affiliate of the Jets. Despite the success of the IceCaps both on and off the ice, True North ultimately decided to relocate the AHL team to Winnipeg for the 2015-16 season.
Bringing the NHL back to Winnipeg
In January 2007, Chipman was invited to meet with NHL executives, including commissioner Gary Bettman, in New York to make a presentation about bringing an NHL team to Winnipeg, either through expansion or relocation. TNSE wasn't alone—the NHL also met with interested parties from Houston, Kansas City, Seattle, and Las Vegas—but were most impressed by the presentation from the Winnipeg group.
In 2009, Bettman approached Chipman about the possibility of taking over the struggling Phoenix Coyotes. The Coyotes were on the verge of declaring bankruptcy and were purchased by the league out of bankruptcy court later that year. In October, Chipman made a second presentation to the league about relocating a team to Winnipeg.
The Coyotes ownership issue remained unresolved in May 2010. As the league was not prepared to cover the team's losses for another season, the league executive reached a tentative agreement to sell the Coyotes to TNSE, allowing them to relocate the franchise back to Winnipeg. This was intended as a back-up plan, as the league's first choice was to keep the team in Arizona. With no other investors in place, the league asked the City of Glendale to cover the Coyotes losses for the 2010–11 season. Facing a tight deadline, city council voted in favor of the deal rather than risk losing the primary tenant of their arena. According to Chipman, TNSE came "within ten minutes of acquiring (the Coyotes)".
After a failed bid to sell the team to Matthew Hulziser, the NHL and TNSE resumed their negotiations in spring of 2011. Glendale city council decided to cover the teams losses for another year, so TNSE shifted their focus on another opportunity—to acquire the Atlanta Thrashers from the Atlanta Spirit group. On the morning of May 31, 2011, the sale was finalized and announced at a press conference held at the MTS Centre. The sale and relocation of the team to Winnipeg was approved by the NHL Board of Governors on June 21. Mark Chipman confirmed that the team would be known as the Jets at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft on June 24. The Jets played their inaugural game on October 9, 2011 in front of a sold-out crowd at the MTS Centre, losing 5–1 against the Montreal Canadiens.
Although the Jets did not qualify for the Stanley Cup playoffs in their first season, the team was very successful off the ice. It was widely believed that the Jets, playing in the league's smallest market, would require assistance through the NHL's revenue sharing program to be financially viable. However, the team's revenues in 2011–2012 exceeded expectations to the extent that they did not qualify. According to Forbes' 2012 NHL financial report, the Jets generated $105 million US in revenue during their inaugural season, 16th best in the league, and posted operating income of $13.3 million. In November 2013, Forbes estimated the value of the franchise to be twice what TNSE purchased it for in 2011. 
The MTS Centre Exhibition Hall was an exhibition centre operated by TNSE from 2010 to 2011. It was located in the now-demolished A&B Sound building across the street from the MTS Centre and hosted three exhibits during its existence. The first show, the controversial Bodies: The Exhibition, ran from September 2010 to January 2011. Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition, produced by RMS Titanic Inc., ran from February to July 2011. It featured close to 200 of the over 5,500 collected artifacts from the doomed ocean liner. The final show, Da Vinci the Genius ran from August to November 2011.
In April 2014, TNSE assumed operating control of the Burton Cummings Theatre, a former vaudeville theatre-turned-music venue in downtown Winnipeg. Under this arranagement, TNSE now manages all aspects of the theatre and its programming and will provide the capital required to upgrade the building. It also provides TNSE with a venue for smaller events where the MTS Centre would not be practical.
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- "True North buys Thrashers, set to move them to Winnipeg". The Sports Network. May 31, 2011. Retrieved June 1, 2011.
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- "NHL Team Values 2012". Forbes. November 28, 2012.
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- "True North unveils new exhibition hall". Winnipeg Free Press. August 11, 2010. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
- "Titantic stays on at exhibition hall". Winnipeg Free Press. June 17, 2011. Retrieved June 27, 2011.
- "True North takes over Burton Cummings Theatre in Winnipeg". "CBC.ca". 12 May 2014.