Civic Center responds to Rush Embezzlement Investigation

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KEVN TV)- In an exclusive report Thursday Black Hills Fox News broke the story of an active federal investigation into alleged embezzlement by a former Rush employee.

Inside Rapid City Rush hockey team locker room on 10/4/19.

We've learned the alleged embezzlement is more than $500,000 over and believed to be ongoing over a period of several years.

This story is still developing and likely will be for quite some time. However, the story comes at a tough time for the new ownership group, Spire Sports, based in North Carolina.

The Rush play their first game of the season next Friday night on the road, and their first home game is October 25th.

So far, there have been no arrests, and no charges in the case.

The new ownership group, Spire Sports owns about half of the Rush organization. Spire Sports says they discovered the alleged embezzlement back in June, as new owners, and that the Rush contacted police immediately with what they found.

Another element of this story includes money from the Civic Center used to help the Rush stay afloat.

In 2017, the team came to the Civic Center saying they couldn't meet their financial obligations. It's important to note this is before the new ownership group bought into the Rush.

The two sides worked out a deal, signed in May of last year, making the Civic Center a quote "minor partner" in the team, and obligating the Civic Center to cover Rush financial losses up to 350-thousand dollars a year for three years.

The Civic Center said they were investing back money they made off the hockey games.

in January of this year, the Civic Center made a final payment of 174-thousand dollars to the team to help keep it afloat . That makes the total subsidy given to the Rush just shy of a quarter million dollars.

That agreement has since ended , with Spire saying they're getting no money from the Civic Center, and Spire saying the team is now actually out of debt.

Spire Sports bought into the Rush in January 2019, while the Rush were struggling to survive. Spire began managing the team in early March 2019.

With an investigation into alleged embezzlement by a former Rush employee, there are questions about financial oversight, regarding the nearly quarter million dollar subsidy the Civic Center gave the Rush to stay afloat.

Craig Baltzer, Executive Director of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, sent us a statement today.

"Once the Spire Entertainment took ownership of the team last spring, a new contract was formed and the relationship between the Rush and the Civic Center went back to an industry standard lessee and lessor relationship," the statement from Baltzer reads.

The statement continues, "The Civic Center is satisfied with the company structure of Spire Entertainment and the new Rush management."

Friday, Jeff Dickerson, part owner of Spire Sports, spoke on camera, for the first since Black Hills Fox News broke the story on Thursday.

"Today has been a very humbling day for our group. And we are grateful to the sponsors that we have reached out to. And they have all been very supportive," Dickerson said Friday.
Dickerson continued by saying "Clearly we have spent six or seven months here now building some goodwill with them and building some faith. And I can tell you it looks like it's being reciprocated today."

Dickerson told Black Hills Fox News, that for the new owners, it's going to be a long haul, and they don't expect to make any money this year.

Dickerson noted the Rush were not successful for 5 or 6 years with declining enrollment, before Spire Sports bought into the team.

Dickerson thanked Rush fans for their support, and is confident they can turn the team around, and make it a success.