Thursday, September 21, 2006

Potential for an AHL team?

I received this comment on one of my previous posts

Before I respond, full disclosure -- I am a HUGE fan of AHL-level hockey and believe IT is the best product for our market. I believe the NHL could be successful, but the AHL is a better fit, especially considering the potential rivalries with teams in Chicago, Omaha and Des Moines.

Yea, could you focus some of your excellent coverage on the likelihood of bringing an AHL franchise to KC? What franchises are for sale? What franchises are struggling? Who could be eyeing KC? Is it even feasible so long as Paul McGannon has his heart set on the NHL?

I'd be more than happy to address this topic. Let me take the questions one at a time.

Yea, could you focus some of your excellent coverage on the likelihood of bringing an AHL franchise to KC?

As long as the Penguins arena situation is in limbo, and it will be until the Pittsburgh slots license is awarded late this year, I don't believe there will be movement toward bringing an AHL team to KC. It seems AEG wants to completely exhaust the possibility of luring the Penguins before negotiating a lease with a current AHL franchise owner.

AEG already owns an AHL team, the Manchester Monarchs. An AHL owner cannot own two franchises in the league, so there is no chance AEG purchases an AHL team for Sprint Center.

This "dual ownership" rule was the downfall of Kansas City professional hockey. When the AHL absorbed the former IHL teams, the Kansas City Blades were owned by Grand Rapids native Rich DeVos, who also owned the Grand Rapids Griffons and the arena in which the Griffons play, Van Ardel Arena. He chose, to no ones surprise, to retain the team in his home town. The Blades folded along with the IHL.

Since then there have been unforgiveable missteps like when Kevin Gray seemed to insist on local ownership in order to lure an AHL team when, most likely, at least three AHL franchises looked at KC since the IHL folded in 2001. I'd rather not talk about the misstep of bringing to Outlaws to KC. I told a former Kemper Arena employee that the UHL would NEVER work in KC. Others thought differently. Some are good at judging these things and others are good at making gloves.

What's the buzz?

I'd have more about the AHL if anything was going on. No public information has come out about KC pursuing one of the two available AHL franchises. The deadline for activating a team in the AHL for the 2007-08 season will be mid-May 2007.

What franchises are for sale?

AHL has 30 franchises available and 30 owners

I said "deadline for activating a team" above because the AHL has 30 franchises available, one for every NHL team. All 30 franchises are currently under ownership. Twenty seven teams will play in the AHL this season. Three teams are dormant.

Cleveland -- former Utah, owned by the guy who owns the Cleveland Cavaliers. Will begin play in Cleveland in 2007.

-- A franchise owned by the Edmonton Oilers and currently dormant. They played in Edmonton as the Roadrunners during the NHL lockout.
-- A franchise owned by Cincinnatian Pete Robinson -- he tried to resurrect the team as the Cincinnati Railraiders (great name), but failed to reach his goal for season ticket deposits and decided to keep the franchise dormant.

What franchises are struggling?

Oh no, you are not getting me into that trap. This is where the Star makes their mistake. The question isn't "what franchises are struggling?" it is "What franchise may be interested in relocating?"

It is very hard to identify an AHL franchise that is struggling. A franchise may have small attendance at the gate and, based on their lease agreement, NOT struggle.

To answer the question -- I have no idea, however there is franchise turnover in the AHL nearly every year.

Who could be eyeing KC?

That is tough to say. Will the team play at Sprint Center or at Kemper? If it is Kemper, no one.

If it is Sprint Center, I would think any AHL owner with a tenuous arena situation would jump at the chance to play at Sprint Center.

The question is "Does AEG want an AHL team playing in Sprint Center?"

AEG is obviously familiar with the AHL since they own the AHL franchise that led the league in attendance last season.

But, an AHL team would demand a large number of weekend dates. Does AEG want to tie up their weekend dates with AHL hockey or reserve them for these great concerts they say will no longer bypass KC?

Plus, AEG sold all those luxury boxes to KC's big fish. Did those big fish buy luxury boxes to see the KC AHL team vs. the Peoria Rivermen? I doubt it.

Is it even feasible so long as Paul McGannon has his heart set on the NHL?

Of course, if AEG can profit from the AHL. If AEG thinks they can make money filling arena dates with AHL hockey, then they could give a hoot whether McGannon is touting KC for an NHL team.

Would it be vice versa? Since McGannon seems to have the local media's ear, would McGannon and NHL21 embrace AHL hockey in KC and support it as the best possible alternative?

I would hope NHL21 would throw their full support behind an AHL team while continuing the spin "KC is a viable market for the NHL, too. Any NHL franchise that is not satisfied in their current market should look at us."

You know how I feel on this topic.

Get an AHL team to KC for Sprint Center's opening

Sports fans in KC will embrace AHL hockey. It is, arguably, the second best hockey league in the world. We, KC Hockey fans, will be exposed to players the caliber of Jason Spezza, M-A Fleury and Jonathan Cheechoo, who all played full seasons in the AHL, as they rise to NHL stardom.

Not only that, but the "4-A" players, right on the cusp of the NHL, are much more entertaining than the career minor leaguers of the UHL or CHL.

The impact the Blades had on this community still exits. Some of the Blades former "4-A" players still make their home in KC. Guys like Pat Ferschweiler, Gary Emmons, JF Quintin and Jason Herter are passing on their expertise to KC's current crop of youth hockey players.

There is no downside to an AHL team in KC ('ll be more affordable to take your whole family). I get excited just thinking about seeing AAA hockey again.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Penguins sale problems resolved? Not anytime soon

A story in today's Pittsburgh Tribune-Review says the Penguins sale, and subsequently whether the team stays in Pittsburgh, will not be resolved anytime soon.

Questions delay sale of Penguins

As a matter of fact, this article says the team may be taken off the market.

If the current owners, including former team captain Mario Lemieux, cannot reach a sales agreement, they could withdraw their offer to sell the team. That would give them time to resolve questions preventing a sale at a price they want.

Of course, the whole thing hinges on the new arena.

Issues blocking the sale include the asking price -- of around $175 million -- and questions about whether Pittsburgh will get an arena, who would pay for the arena and the potential for relocating the team if there is no arena.

Many of the arena issues could be settled in December, when state gambling regulators are expected to award a slots license for Pittsburgh.

Also today, is a story about how the Mayor may go directly to those bidding on the Penguins to try to get them to accept Plan B by passing the current Penguins' leadership.

Mayor to ask new Pens owners to accept Plan B
He said he had gotten no response from the team to a letter dated Friday, in which he asked it to commit to staying here and to the "Plan B" arena funding blueprint crafted by Gov. Ed Rendell.

Regardless, this situation is not going to be solved any time soon.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Pittsburgh Blackberrys

It looks as if Jim Balsillie will be the next to have exclusive rights to negotiate a purchase of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Balsillie is the CEO of Research In Motion (Blackberry).

Canadian top bidder in hunt for Penguins

Now, the question for KC sports fans is, "Would Balsillie be interested in moving the team to Sprint Center?"

It would seem the answer that that question is "No".

Balsillie, who has declined comment, was the secretive Canadian bidder who nearly signed a letter of intent with the Penguins in mid-July. He backed out when he realized it wouldn't be simple to move the team. It's believed he wanted to relocate it to Hamilton, Ontario, which is near Waterloo.

The guy is a Southern Ontario native and seems to have no interest in any markets other than Pittsburgh and Hamilton, Ontario.

It seems clear that Balsillie, a native of Peterborough, is entrenched in southern Ontario.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

New Letter of Intent for Penguins coming soon?

Well, two weeks have passed since word came down that Sam Fingold is, most likely, out as the future owner of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Could a new letter of intent be signed soon?
Penguins focus on sale to one of four entities

I think I have to restate why this is of interest to KC sports fans (since the Star doesn't cover this story).

-NHL teams only move as a result of a sale. Only once in 25 years has an NHL team moved without a sale. In general, the sale is two years or less before the move. The one team was the Minnesota North Stars and and that was to Dallas, KC is no Dallas.
-The Pittsburgh Penguins are the only team currently for sale (at least publicly).
-The new CBA in the NHL makes nearly every market viable, lessening the odds a current NHL owner will want to sell.

The hockey team, owned in part by Hall of Fame player Mario Lemieux, appears to be focused on one of four entities -- Sam Fingold, a Hartford real-estate developer who signed a letter of intent for exclusive negotiating rights in late July but has not been able to reach a purchase agreement; finalist bidders Andrew Murstein and Jim Renacci, or the secretive Canadian person or group that was close to signing a letter of intent in mid-July.

So who is it going to be?

The secretive Canadian guy is probably Jim Balsillie, the CEO of RIM (the Blackberry people). He has pursued an NHL team in the past. Reasearch In Motion is a Canadian company and headquartered in Waterloo, Ontario (not too far from Toronto and Hamilton).

In July, the Canadian bidder backed out of signing a letter of intent at the last moment because it became clear the Penguins could not freely be moved to another city. That bidder apparently was eyeing Hamilton, Ontario.

I'm just guessing, but I think Balsillie is next to get exclusive rights to purchase the team. The guy seems to WANT to own an NHL team and he certaintly has the scratch to do it.

Does Balsillie have any relationship to AEG? I don't know of one.

Does this Canadian have any interest in owning a team and placing them in KC? I doubt it. It doesn't make much sense.

I guess we'll see how this plays out over the next 60 days or so.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

SoCal response to Pitch "We're Pucked" article

Here's a response from a SoCal sports blog

SoCal Sports Observed

AEG sued by Forum owners

Let me preface this by saying this has nothing to do with Sprint Center.

However, it does have to do with Sprint Center's operators, AEG.

The owners of the Inglewood Forum, the former home of the "Showtime Lakers" filed a lawsuit last week against AEG.
Inglewood's Ailing Forum Blames Owner of Staples -- The church-owned venue accuses Anschutz Entertainment of monopolistic conduct

The lawsuit charges that Anschutz — until this week the exclusive booking agent for the Forum — had engaged in a conspiracy with Anschutz affiliates to "unlawfully monopolize" the Los Angeles entertainment market.

Concerts can be highly lucrative for arenas because of the fees and concession sales they generate.

Lucrative enough to keep a new building afloat without an anchor NBA or NHL (or AHL, it seems) tenant? The City hopes so.

From now until December 31, 2006, the Forum has three show booked.
Source: Ticketmaster and Pollstar

The Forum group said the arena had hosted 12 non-church events in the current fiscal year, including big-name concerts featuring Madonna, Pearl Jam and Coldplay. But the company said its own representatives arranged 10 of those events.

What does this mean for Kemper? Well, Kemper is home to the American Royal, so I'm sure it will be fine.

"When you build a new arena, you want to make sure that you're not competing with the old arena in town," he said.

Old arenas frequently are torn down or for contractual reasons don't compete with newer ones. In Houston, for example, when an old arena was sold to a church, it held its own events but did not host other acts.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Penguins talking to new bidders

After the Pitch's interesting article came this news from Pittsburgh.

Penguins talking to two bidders

With Sam Fingold still trying to iron out details to reach a purchase agreement, the Penguins have contacted at least two other original bidders for the team, sources close to the sale process said yesterday.

Remember, Fingold is the only one that has mentioned relocating to KC. If Fingold is out, Kansas City is definitely out.

Fingold had talked with Kansas City about bringing a team to its new arena but said at the time he signed the letter of intent that his priority was to try to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh.

I'm getting the feeling Fingold was just giving lip-service to keeping the team in Pittsburgh and the current owners saw right through his ulterior motive, wanted the team to stay in Pittsburgh and torpedoed his deal.

"My commitment to keeping the team in Pittsburgh has never changed through the whole process, and I would not be interested in moving it," Renacci said yesterday in an e-mail interview. "I have always assumed that I would have to work with the current 'Plan B' process."

Prospective owners are working within the "Plan B" parameters. If Plan B is such a bad deal, why would anyone work with the Plan B process?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

KC Pitch says "We're Pucked"

We're Pucked
Seven big-league hockey and basketball teams have rejected Kansas City. When the Sprint Center opens, will anyone love us?

Really an interesting read in the KC Pitch this week. Now, I'm not a great fan of the Pitch, anymore.

When I was a younger, single man I read the Pitch every week. I had to find the drink specials and know which bands were playing where. I became a huge fan of Uncle Tupelo/Son Volt/Wilco/Jay Farrar after reading a small story in the Pitch probably 15 years ago. Now that I'm older, I spend my weekend nights listening to the Wiggles rather than Steve, Bob and Rich.

I must say, I'm impressed with the storytelling. By reading the story, one can tell that Justin Kendall did far more research than anyone at the Star has done.

The story is a bit pessimistic, but, c'mon, this is Journalism. Without a slightly cynical view, the right questions don't get asked (hint, hint).

The reality may seem clear. But like victims of unrequited love, city leaders and AEG officials have stubbornly refused to admit that they're growing desperate.

I think it's very telling that AEG has not mentioned an anchor tenant for October 2007 in quite some time. Next thing you'll hear Michael Roth say is "We never promised an NBA or NHL tenant for the arena's opening. We're talking to some franchises about relocating in 2008 and beyond."

However, the Walt Disney Company sold the Ducks in 2005 to an owner who decided to keep the team in California.

Not only that, but they sold it to an Orange County native, who is now pursuing an NBA team (he already has an NBDL team playing in the same arena as the Ducks) and may be competition for KC's bid for an NBA team. The Ducks are in Anaheim to stay for a long, long time.

If that doesn't work, Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell has devised a plan to pay for the arena with bonds that could be paid off by the Penguins in modest annual installments.

Remember, the Governor's "Plan B" DOES NOT call for the team to fund half the arena, as the Star erroneously reported. Plan B calls for the team to pay $2.9M per year for 30 years plus give up naming rights, which is worth another $1.2M per year.

Last week, Fingold's deal to buy the Penguins appeared to be falling through, according to several media reports in Pittsburgh. The Star buried the news in a 415-word article on page nine of the sports section.

Ok, that is probably an unprovoked shot. The Star simply doesn't have the column space to do much more than 400-word stories. However, they can at least get them right.

Kevin Gray, president of the Kansas City Sports Commission and Foundation, talks of the "golden opportunity" Kansas City has to land the Penguins. "We definitely respect the fact that the league wants to stay in Pittsburgh," Gray tells the Pitch. "But our belief is that right now, if the league wants to be successful and solidify a market, you can do that here right now."

Wow. What an incredibly arrogant thing to say. Pittsburgh supports the Penguins for 40 years and two Stanley Cups and Kevin Gray says moving to KC would "solidify a market". Please.

Neil deMause, co-author of the widely cited Field of Schemes: How the Great Stadium Swindle Turns Public Money Into Private Profit, wonders what the benefit would be to the city. "You've got a team, but you're not making any revenue off of your arena," deMause says. "You've just filled up 40 dates, and you're not getting anything from it." He says Kansas City and Oklahoma City could end up being "the cities that everybody loves to play footsie with."

An obvious omission is any mention of NHL21 and Paul McGannon. I guess McGannon's constant positive spin couldn't advance the story. Perhaps a warranted omission.

I guess there is value in our local daily newspaper being a glorified cheerleader (rah, rah for ol' KC). It makes people feel warm and fuzzy like the pretty colors the Star now has.

But, I put a lot more stock in Journalism that tells a story and informs it's readers.

Justin Kendall and the Pitch have done a nice job with this one. It accurately informs sports fans and readers about how difficult it is to attract an NBA or NHL team, regardless of whether AEG is an 800-pound gorilla. As I have said in this blog before, the recent NHL moves were prompted by the NHL wanting to get away from former WHA markets. Only the former Minnesota North Stars up and left a true, established NHL market in the last 25 years (and KC's potential fan base isn't even close to that of Dallas in the 90s).

I hope it sparks discussion among sports fans and, maybe more importantly, voters in KC.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Read the Pitch this week

If you are a hockey fan or just interested in Sprint Center and who the anchor tennant will be, pick up a copy of the Pitch this week.

Land purchased for Pittsburgh's new arena

Another step to securing the Penguins future in Pittsburgh took place late last week.

The Pittsburgh-Allegheny County Sports & Exhibition Authority ("SEA"), equivalent to Kansas City's Jackson Counts Sports Commission, purchased one property and will try to acquire another adjacent property.

Because they are going to build an arena on the properties.

SEA acquires Uptown property for arena

The SEA board on Thursday approved property purchases from eight owners totaling $10.85 million as part of the effort to assemble land on Fifth, Colwell Street and Washington Place for the arena. The prices for Mr. Bertenthal's properties, at 1015 and 1021 Fifth, were not disclosed.

Here is where that is:
5th Ave, Washington Pl. near Colwell It's not too far from the current Mellon Arena.

NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman has said the Penguins will not move if plans are in place for a new arena.

Purchasing land seems like solid plans...

On another note, Evgeny Malkin reports to the Penguins today and is expected to sign an contract.

KC hockey fans, order your NHL Center Ice as soon as it is available. You won't want to miss this kid play.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Penguins to pay half -- KC Star erroneously reports

The Star hurriedly chimed in on the Fingold/30-day negotiation period story.

Thirty-day period over, but Fingold, who talked of bringing Penguins to KC, can still buy team

One of those issues likely centers on the arena situation. The main hope for funding a new arena in downtown Pittsburgh would be if the Isle of Capri is granted the city’s license for slot machines. The Isle of Capri said it would commit $290 million toward the new arena if it wins the license. But if one of two other companies receives the license, a secondary Plan B would provide only half the necessary funding of the arena, and the new owner likely would be responsible for the remaining costs.

Wow. That is very, very incorrect.
Penguins officials react cautiously to Rendell's backup arena plan

The governor's proposal would require annual debt payments of $18.56 million for 30 years. That money would include a voluntary $7.5 million annual contribution from whichever group receives the slots license; $7 million a year from the state new Gaming Economic Development and Tourism fund derived from slots revenue; $2.9 million a year from the Penguins'; and $1.1 million a year from naming rights and food and beverage sales at the arena.

From that where does anyone get "new owner likely would be responsible for the remaining costs [half]"

Let's get this straight
$7.5M per year from whomever is awarded slots license
$7M per year from Gaming fund
$2.9M per year from Pens (plus $8.5M up front)
$1.1M per year from naming rights

I went to the William Allen White School of Journalism at KU, twice, so I'm no math wizard, but I come up with the Pens paying 17% for the arena, not the misleading "remainder after half" that the Star quotes.

“It’s apparent to me that the Isle of Capri has to pass in Pittsburgh,” McGannon said. “If it doesn’t, the current Plan B would mean the current or future Pittsburgh ownership group would have to fund half the building. Well, the Kansas City deal is a better deal.”

Is McGannon equally uninformed? Where do these guys get "half"?

Speechless. I'm simply speechless. The Star continues to take what AEG and NHL21 says at face value without questioning what they say or researching it to see if it is accurate.

Dear KC Star,
Here's a hint. When Fingold signed the LOI I put a note on my Yahoo! Calendar 30 days after the LOI. Then, I planned to post a story that day. Perhaps you could do the same thing in the future and be a little more timely.

Your friend at

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Fingold purchase of Pens may be in jeopardy

I tell you. Writing this blog and following the Penguins situation sure does keep one busy.

Now, the latest twist is that Sam Fingold's 30-day exclusive negotiating period may come to an end without a deal.

How is this significant to KC hockey fans?

Fingold is AEG/NHL21/KC's only hope for an NHL team in KC for the opening of Sprint Center. And, that hope is slim since the NHL has said they will not allow the Penguins to move.

Two stories in Pittsburgh today.
Is Penguins suitor looking for cash?

Unspecified issues remain in $175M sale of Penguins

Could one of those "unspecified issues" be that Fingold's intention all along was to move to the team to KC -- that Fingold saying he would work to keep the Pens in Pittsburgh was just lip-service?

That's what the Pittsburgh Trib seems to think.

A possible hurdle could be whether Fingold would be allowed to move the team. He has said he wants to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh, but talked previously about relocating the team to Kansas City if Pittsburgh does not get a new arena.

"As far as we're concerned, we're negotiating to buy the land for a new arena and we're willing and ready to negotiate a lease," Onorato said.

And, perhaps Fingold doesn't want to negotiate a lease until he purchases the team. Well, Penguin ownership, there are other suitors perhaps it is time to move on.

The 30-day period ended over the weekend, and it appears the Penguins are the ones ready to pull out of negotiations.

The NHL must approve relocation. League officials have said they prefer to keep the Penguins here as long as the team does not have to keep playing at aging Mellon Arena. NHL Bylaw 36 states that the league has a right to block the relocation of a team as long as it is financially viable, or its owners are taking steps to make it so.

"They know (the arena) is real," Onorato said. "We're going to be able to continue to make a very strong case to keep the franchise here because of what we're doing on a multipurpose arena."

You know, as an outsider, this deal stunk from the beginning. Dave Checketts purchases the Blues for $150M when the Blues have a slightly larger market and a beautiful, new building with a plethora of luxury suites in which to play. I've been to nearly 10 NHL arenas and Savvis Center (or, whatever it is going to be called) is in my top 2 (I like Phillips Arena in Atlanta a bit better).

The Penguins are worth $25M more...just six to eight months later?

By the way, this story is very significant to KC sports fans. What did the Star have today?


Monday, August 28, 2006

Penguins sale -- It's been 30 days

Sam Fingold signed a letter of intent to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins 30 days ago (actually, I think it was the July 29, but close enough).

Fingold to buy Penguins

His LOI gave him exclusive negotiating rights for 30 days.

Paul McGannon of NHL21 said KC would know more about whether the Penguins will stay in Pittsburgh in 30 days.

The next 30 days will determine if Pittsburgh is able to come up with financial models and scenarios to stay in Pittsburgh," Mr. McGannon told the Star for a story appearing today.

Well, do we know more?

Let's give it a couple of days. Stay tuned.

Does Milwaukee need the Bucks? And, is the NBA right for medium-sized markets like Milwaukee (& KC).

That's the question a Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel columnists asks.

Does this city need the Bucks?

He says the NBA with it's soft cap may be too expensive for a city like Milwaukee.

Or have the economics of the National Basketball Association grown so insane - the Bucks' $60 million payroll for 15 players, for example, ranks 15th among the 30 teams - that pro basketball no longer has a place in a city like Milwaukee?

If it's too expensive for Milwaukee, then it's definitely not the right professional league for KC.

And, what about the fact that the Bradley Center, built just 18 years ago, is already obsolete by NBA standards.

That is a hard concept for a number of Milwaukeeans, who see a clean, well-maintained arena and are outraged that a facility built in 1988 is already obsolete by NBA standards. But that is fact, not spin or fanciful thinking from Herb Kohl, business people or delusional sportswriters. It happened in Miami and Charlotte. It happened because NBA salaries spiraled out of control, because the Bradley Center does not have space for revenue-producing amenities, because times change, because of a thousand reasons. Sad to say, it happened.

Well, again, the NBA is wrong for KC with the spiraling salaries (remember, these giant payrolls are for a roster of 15 players).

So we are left with the unimpeachable reality that the Bucks will eventually need a new place to play, here or elsewhere, sooner than later.

Could that other place be KC? Probably not.

As long as Kohl owns the team, there will be no threats to move. The senator will also be in office for six more years, a period that should provide a little breathing room to rationally debate the issues. As a man who kept the team in town 21 years ago, Kohl has been a very good owner, one who has proved lately that he is willing to spend to win.

The fact is that the NHL has a hard cap of $44M, which, unlike the NBA, is friendly to markets like KC.

That very same cap is what is keeping teams from considering KC because NHL teams can make a go of it in any market now.

The NBA cap has created a league of instability with New Orleans, Seattle, Sacremento, Portland, Orlando, New Jersey and, now, Milwaukee considering relocation , whining about their current facility or current facility's lease.

Monday, August 21, 2006

NHL hockey to KC August 25

(OK, it's an adult game played with NHL rules, but it's the closest we can get, right now)
You want to see some fun hockey in KC this week.

Go to Pepsi Ice Midwest at 135th and Quivera Friday night, August 25 @ 8 p.m.

Local adult hockey players will play in a game with full NHL rules. That's right 20 minute periods and FIVE FOR FIGHTING.

Last time they threw this party at Ice Midwest it was standing room only and, yes, there was a fight.

Some of the guys playing in this game have ACHA club or Junior 'B' experience.

If you like hockey you really should check out this game.

(And, yes, the rink sells beer)

KC Photo Zone took pictures at the last game.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

New NBA team in AEG's radar?

Perhaps AEG has the Milwaukee Bucks on the radar for Sprint Center.

In spite of new lease, Bucks' future uncertain

The good news is the Milwaukee Bucks have a new lease at the Bradley Center through at least 2008.

The bad news is there is no consensus on a long-term solution for the Bucks, a franchise burdened with small-market status and an arena that is among the oldest in the National Basketball Association.

For now, the Bucks have a lease, though the financial terms did not change. The Bucks will continue to receive on an all-events basis 27.5% of gross receipts from concession sales and 13.75% of gross receipts from food and beverage sales in the suites. In addition, the team receives 30% of gross receipts from merchandise sales at Bucks games and the Bucks will receive about $2.6 million a year from the licensing of suites.

Interesting. Now we now what kind of lease offer AEG has to throw at a potential NBA or NHL team.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Omaha has it really good.

Omaha's hockey fans have it way better than we do. They have three hockey products from which to choose.

University of Nebraska-Omaha Mavericks -- NCAA Div. I in a conference with Ohio State and Michigan.
Omaha Ak-Sar-Ben Knights -- AHL
River City Lancers -- USHL, the top Junior league in the US.

All three are fun to watch at an affordable price.

However, as I found out by perusing a UN-O Mavericks hockey blog, there seems to be a silly fight going on between Omaha Knights fans & UNO Mavs fans.

I can't believe those with so much complain when there are those with so little (KC Hockey fans).

A UNO fan on the Knights

The idea that we should pay top dollar to a for-profit corporation half-owned by out of towners to watch second-tier professionals in a decaying building with what is by all accounts a blah game presentation out of loyalty to the city is parochial and bizarre.

Wow, is this guy spoiled. We hockey fans in KC would give anything to have a team half-owned, or heck, fully-owned by out-of-towners. To see, not second-tier professionals, but up-and-coming NHL stars would be a gift.

We saw second-tier professionals for one season in the UHL. It sucks. The AHL is not the UHL and these players are not second-tier.

(By the way, I anticipate but reject the argument that says, "Well, we'll never get an NHL club if we can't support an AHL club." I'm not sure the city's economics or demographics would ever support an NHL club, at least not in our lifetimes. And do we really think we're going to get an NHL club before, say, Houston?)

You are right there. Support for an AHL team has nothing to do with how an NHL team would be supported. And, it's "before KC" not "before Houston".

Indeed, the Omahan's soul is stirred more by an undersized, underskilled player who has a heart the size of the moon, playing each game though it was his last, than by a skilled but uninspired journeyman who wishes he were anywhere but Omaha.

Wow, another shot at AHLers. It's amazing how one city's Pinot (Manchester, NH) is another city's MD 20/20 (Omaha). Lots of fans love AHL hockey, me included.

I can also see the value of NCAA hockey, but can't help but have fond memories of watching Archie Irbe and Viktor Kozlov play in KC. I've been to Mavericks games and love them. But to say AHL hockey is played by "uninspired journeymen" is simply a cheap shot.

Maverick and Lancer fans are legendary for their fierce loyalty; have you ever run into a Lancer fan who had seats at Hitchcock for the Lancers' 0-48 inaugural season?

I remember that Lancer season. It was great fun to go to those games. Later the Lancers moved to Ak-Sar-Ben Arena when the race track was still up-and-running. The atmosphere in that place was awesome. As a matter of fact, I saw the 1980 US Olympic hockey team play an exhibition game in the old Ak-Sar-Ben arena.

The staggering arrogance of the Knights organization -- from bullying the owner of the trademark "Omaha Knights" to the "Best Best Best" campaign, is something that Maverick and Lancer fans took notice of. We might have considered checking out a few games had we been asked nicely, or had we been treated like the intelligent consumers of the product that we are. Instead, we were to feel shame for patronizing lesser programs.

OK, that's a very good point. Which, once again, proves my point that a hockey team's success in a market place is only as good as their marketing team. I harp on this subject a lot.

The Knights' marketing campaign is flawed in so many ways I don't know where to start.

Why would anyone launch a marketing campaign that may offend the very people they are trying to attract?

Stupid and arrogant.
(though I still like the Ak-Sar-Ben Knights name and logo)

One of the more interesting changes in the collective Omaha psyche over the last ten years is that we've stopped acting like jilted girlfriends, begging for love and attention from the outside. Instead, we've lost a few pounds, started exercising again, bought some new clothes and have started showing up at parties feeling great about ourselves and turning the heads of those who previously overlooked us.

Which is why I love Omaha. I loved it when I lived there and I still love it. My 2-year old daughter loves it, too. She's constantly babbling about the "Omaha Zoo".

Omaha, you have a gift. You can attend a hockey game for less than $20 on nearly every weekend of the Fall and Winter. Omaha, you have a hockey community to which only hockey fans in the Northeast US can relate.

Embrace it.

Stop the Knights Vs. Mavs Vs. Lancers syndrome and do everything you can to get all three to survive and thrive.

You have no idea how much you will miss one of them when they are gone. When I read about the IHL folding, I thought "that's too bad, but professional hockey will return to KC." I had no idea how much I would miss it or how long it would be gone.

All that being said, I can't wait for my annual trip up I-29 to see the Mavs (and, hopefully, the Knights this year, too).

Friday, August 18, 2006

Malkin Mania

So, Evgeny Malkin is safely in the US skating with Rob Blake and others in LA.

You want to see why Penguins fans are fixated on the Evgeny Malkin situation?

Watch this.

Evgeny Malkin highlights


He looked good in the Olympics. I had never seen these highlights.

Crosby, Malkin, M-A Fleury and it looks like Colby Armstrong is going to be quite good, too.

The Pens certainly have a bright future.

Now, please don't confuse MalkinMania with Valkenvania, a place depicted in quite possibly the worst movie ever, Nothing But Trouble. How can a movie with Dan Akroyd, Chevy Chase, Demi Moore, Taylor Negron and John Candy be so awful?

Thursday, August 17, 2006

So quiet...

Not much going on in the Pens to KC front.

This comes as no surprise. Sam Fingold is in a 30-day exclusive negotiation period with the Penguins, which is also a media "quiet period". This happened last year during the Blues sale, too. Dave Checketts entered a 30-day exclusive negotiation period with Paige Laurie's father and there was virtually no news during that time. Talks broke down between Paige's dad and Checketts the first time. Checketts didn't close the deal until (I believe) his second exclusive negotation period.

The Penguins fans these days are focused on Evgeny Malkin and whether he will be at training camp within the next month or so.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Evgeny Malkin's unbelievable story

OK KC hockey fans.

If Paul McGannon is telling the truth (unlikely) and there is still a possibility that the Penguins move here (probably just spin to save face), you HAVE to know about this story.

Evgeni Malkin, the Penguins #2 overall pick in the 2004 NHL Entry draft, disappeared from his Russian team while they were training in Finland.

It's a long story that I don't have time to go into. You should read about it yourself.
Gonchar: Malkin staying in Russia
Penguins pick Malkin skates out on his Russian club
Russian club to sue over Malkin
Where in the world is Evgeny Malkin?

So, Evgeny Malkin, most likely, signed a contract to play one more season in Russia. But, he signed that contract under durress.

A plan was put in place to get smuggle Malkin out of Europe by having him disappear from his Russian club while training in Finland. He will, most likely, show up in the States or Canada in time to train with the Penguins next month.

When the details come out on this story it will be truly fascinating. I remember once hearing former Blade Michael Pivonka talk about how he fled the former Czechoslovakia. I'm sure this story will be equally as interesting.

I can tell you that this Malkin kid is absolutely, positively the real deal. He is Sidney Crosby, only bigger. I thought Malkin was terrific during this year's Olympic games.

I can't wait to see this guy play in the NHL. Now, it looks like it may happen this October.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Who owns what -- Part I

Here's a story I've wanted to post for quite some time. I just haven't had time to do all the research.

What kind of guy owns an NHL franchise?

It's a question we in Kansas City should be asking. Why? Because it looks like the only way we are going to get an NHL team is to get a locally-based owner to purchase a franchise with the sole intent of moving that franchise out of its current market and into KC (assuming, of course, that 34-year old Samuel Fingold doesn't do that with the Pens, which you know I believe he will leave them in Pittsburgh with a new Igloo).

The list is not quite complete. More later...

Anaheim -- Henry Samueli, Founder & CEO of Broadcom. Also operates the Honda Center (formerly Arrowhead Pond). Is an Orange County native.

Boston -- Jeremy Jacobs, CEO of Delaware North, an international food service and hospitality company.

Buffalo -- Tom Golisano, CEO of Rochester-based Paychex.

Carolina -- Peter Karamanos, CEO of Compuware. Also operates RBC Center where the 'canes play.

Chicago -- Bill Wirtz. Worst owner in professional sports. Owns Chicagoland liquor stores and other real estate interests. Also co-owns United Center with Jerry Reinsdorf.

Colorado -- Stan Kroenke, married a Wal-Mart heir. Also owns the NBA's Denver Nuggets, NLL Colorado Mammoth and owns and operates Pepsi Center.

Columbus -- John H. and John P. McDonnell, founder of Worthington Industries, steel processing and manufacturer of metal-related products. Also is co-owner of an AFL team and operates Nationwide Arena

Detroit -- Mike Ilitch, founder of Little Caesar's Pizza.

Los Angeles -- our friends at AEG. Also own about 50% of MLS (which is a good get us a soccer-specific stadium in KC like Home Depot Center)

-- Several investors operated by Bob Naegele, Jr. who once owned 50% of Rollerblade.

-- George Gillett, an American, CEO of Swift Meats and other meat-related food businesses, Northland Services, a marine transportation business, car dealerships and a landscaping and garden products business. Also owns Bell Centre (got to use the Canadian spelling...)

Nashville -- Craig Leipold, entrepreneur founded Ameritel, a B2B telemarketing firm and purchased Rainfair, a manufacturer of protective clothing and footwear. Also operates Gaylord Entertainment Center.

New York Rangers
-- MSG owns the team and the Knicks. James Dolan is CEO and hired Isiah Thomas to run his basketball team...'nuf said.

New Jersey Devils -- Jeff Vanderbeek, former Managing Director at Lehman Brothers.

New York Islanders
-- Charles Wang and Sanjay Kumar, CEOs of Computer Associates. Plans to refurbish Nassau County Coliseum are almost 100% approved.

Ottawa -- Eugene Melnyk, CEO of Biovail, a large pharmaceutical company that makes Wellbutrin.

-- Comcast owns the team, Ed Snider is President.

St. Louis -- Dave Checketts, former CEO of Madison Square Garden, is the new owner as of a few months ago.

Vancouver -- John McCaw and Francesco Aquilini. McCaw is co-founder of McCaw Communications and McCaw Cellular, Aquilini is the head of a family-owned real estate investment firm (commericial, residential, and golf courses).

Washington -- Ted Leonisis, Vice Chairman of AOL.

That is just a sampling of the type of guys that own NHL teams.

I'll fill in the rest of the teams later.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

When the music stops, Pac NW franchises please sit down

So Paul Allen is no longer looking to sell the Portland Trailblazers.

Allen pulls his 'for sale' sign off Blazers, spurning buyers

This announcement comes without a solution to the problem the billionaire was whining about.

But the decision to take the team off the market does not resolve that uncertainty, and in fact may create more. The team remains the same financial black hole it was five months ago, in which it receives none of the revenue from luxury suites, premium seating and other valuable income streams that normally flow to NBA franchises.

Allen's announcement came after the Seattle SuperSonics were sold to an Oklahoma City investment group.

As Church lady once said, "How con-veeen-ient!"

One question is whether Allen could seek to relocate the team to Seattle, despite contracts that require the Blazers to play at the Rose Garden until 2025. The owners of the Seattle SuperSonics, frustrated over efforts to win public financing for arena construction, announced two weeks ago they would sell the team to a group from Oklahoma City.

The Sonics' new owner wants a new arena in Seattle.
Bennett has visions of 'multipurpose entertainment complex' for Sonics

Let's say, just for fun, he doesn't get one.

  • The Sonics move to Oklahoma City.

  • Paul Allen and his band of dorks (hey, the investment firm is called "Vulcan", what else could they be?) move the Blazers to Seattle, where Allen already owns the NFL franchise.

  • The 23rd largest TV market, Portland, is left without a professional sports franchise.

  • With a beautiful, relatively new building, Portland is now in direct competition with KC for the next available NBA or NHL team.

    A city without a professional sports franchise, Portland -- or -- KC which would be the smallest market with three professional sports franchises*.

    *this does not include the Wizards, which it should. But, until they get a soccer-specific stadium ("SSS"), they don't count because...well..without an SSS they'll move.

  • Tuesday, August 08, 2006

    Franchise relocation -- no more former WHA teams

    When the discusson of an NHL team relocating to Kansas City comes up, inevitably Hartford, Quebec City and Winnipeg enter the discussion. "Those teams moved, why wouldn't a current NHL team move?", one might say.

    Anyone that says that knows nothing about the history of the NHL and its cantakorous relationship with the former WHA.

    The WHA, from 1972 to 1979, was a legitimate threat to the NHL. It was not like the WFL or USFL in football. These teams were stocked full of talent, offered multi-million dollar salaries (unheard of at the time in the NHL) and did not recognize the reserve clause, which made the league very appealing to NHL stars like Bobby Hull and Rick Dudley (oh, how my heart broke when Rick Dudley left the Buffalo Sabres for the Cincinnati Stingers).

    The WHA also scouted internationally at a time when the NHL was made up of mostly Canadian and French-Canadian players.

    The multi-million dollar salaries were the biggest source of contention. NHL owners weren't ready to offer that kind of money to Canadian farm boys.

    For the first several years, the NHL owners did nothing...assuming the WHA would fold. When it didn't fold, merger negotations began.

    In 1979, the NHL absorbed four of the remaining six teams (buying out the other two).

    The old guard NHL owners never wanted to be in Hartford, Quebec City and Winnipeg in the first place. After each former WHA franchise was sold, the NHL didn't stand in the way of moves to Raleigh, Denver and Phoenix -- expanding the NHL's US footprint and washing the league of WHA remnants.

    The 27 cities that comprise the current NHL were all hand-picked markets. The NHL chose to go into Columbus, Atlanta, Miami, Tampa, Anaheim, Nashville, St. Paul and Ottawa through recent expansion. Other markets were considered at the time each expansion franchise was chosen, including Oklahoma City.

    These cities were strategically chosen and the NHL won't quickly abandon them like they did the cities that came to the NHL through a rival league.

    You see...bringing up the relocation of former WHA cities is not relevant when discussing the potential relocation of a current team to KC.

    The most recent franchise move that is relevant is the Minnesota North Stars to Dallas. That move appeased both a greedy owner and a league that wanted to enter a burgeoning metro area, Dallas-Fort Worth. And, in the end, the NHL realized the error of not having a team in the one of its best U.S. metro areas and gave Minneapolis-St. Paul another opportunity to get into the NHL.

    Friday, August 04, 2006

    Who might play in Sprint Center? Ask the right question

    Which team will it be in the Sprint Center?
    I think I may have the answer.

    Ask the right question

    Since the announcement of Sprint Center, the KC media and sports fans have wondered which franchise will move to Sprint Center. However, the KC media has asked the wrong question to arrive at the answer.

    The KC media keeps asking, "Which NHL or NBA is a candidate to relocate to Sprint Center?"

    Then, they look at attendance figures and make assumptions about which franchises' may move. They take AEG's word for it that teams are looking to relocate to KC.

    Rather than asking the proper question is, "Which NHL or NBA team may be interested in relocating to KC?"

    Asking this question changes the story. It would immediately eliminate the Nashville Predators. Because the Predators operate the arena in which they play. The franchise is not going to move to an arena that they do not operate (AEG will operate Sprint Center).

    History of NHL franchise relocation
    The next question that needs to be answered to find the franchise that may relocate to Kansas City is "What has happened in the past when franchises have relocated?"

    There is a great Web site that documents each NHL team, past and present, and what caused them to move to a new city.

    First, the KC Star says AEG's Brenda Tinnen said this:

    Even though 2007 is fast approaching, Tinnen said there is time for a franchise to move to Kansas City and begin play in the fall. She said the NHL’s Quebec Nordiques moved to Denver and the Winnipeg Jets moved to Phoenix with three- to six-month turnarounds.

    The Quebec Nordiques and Winnipeg Jets situations do not pertain the current NHL at all.

    The Quebec Nordiques, Winnipeg Jets, Hartford Whalers and Edmonton Oilers all have one thing in common. THE NHL NEVER WANTED TO BE IN THOSE MARKETS IN THE FIRST PLACE.

    The NHL absorbed those four teams from the WHA in order to stem the tide of rapidly escalating salaries as a result of the competing leagues. The NHL never wanted to be in those markets and allowed new owners to ditch Quebec City, Winnipeg and Hartford at the first opportunity.

    If not for five Stanley Cups, Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, Glen Anderson and a heroic effort by the people of Edmonton, the Oilers may have left Alberta. Now, 30+ Edmonton investors own the team in the NHL's version of the Green Bay Packers.

    The common thread
    One common thread binds the NHL teams that have relocated. They relocated shortly after the franchise was sold.

    The Hartford Whalers, Atlanta Flames, Colorado Rockies, Winnipeg Jets and Quebec Nordiques all moved within three years of being sold. (The California Golden Seals moved to Cleveland two years after being sold. This relocation was a particular bad move as the team struggled both years in Cleveland and was dissolved so the owner, George Gund, could re-start in the Bay Area as the San Jose Sharks).

    Only the Minnesota North Stars and our Kansas City Scouts moved without a recent sale of the team. Norm Green moved the North Stars to Dallas because Minneapolis didn't build him his own arena and, well, he wanted to move to Dallas. And the Scouts moved because the 13 owners were morons. The Scouts lasted only two seasons, but remember the Rockies almost lasted only two seasons, too. The NHL initially blocked the move from Denver to New Jersey, only to allow the move three seasons later.

    The conclusion
    As we look at the current NHL landscape and study the events of the past, we can come to the following conclusion.

    NHL franchises that own the arena in which they play will not move. NHL franchises that operate the arena in which they play are a long shot to move to an arena they would not operate. NHL franchises that are currently building new arenas will not move.

    And, most importantly, in nearly every case of NHL franchise relocation a team is sold.

    Now for the pure speculation...

    The only NHL team that may meet this criteria, from public reports, is the Atlanta Thrashers. Atlanta Spirit LLC owns the Thrashers, Hawks and Phillips Arena. However, it is entirely possible that this ownership group will be split up as a result of a nasty court struggle for control of the teams. The compromise to this court struggle, could be to grant Steve Belkin, a Bostoner, the opportunity to purchase one or both franchises. If Belkin gains control of the Trashers, he will not want to pay rent to Atlanta Spirit LLC, from whom he is estranged, to play in Phillips Arena. He may look for a new home and could call AEG.

    This is absolutely, positively speculation on my part. My speculation does, however, have as much merit as KC Star reporter Randy Covitz' comment about Nashville in a recent article. As a matter of fact, my speculation has more merit because I've done some research.

    My call. The next NHL team to be sold will move to Kansas City. It may be the Thrashers
    You know, I'm not sure Atlanta would miss them. Can't Find a Thrasher Anywhere

    Thursday, August 03, 2006

    KC -- the high school boy of cities

    I started thinking about this situation with KC, AEG, NHL or NBA and the Kansas City Wizards.

    Indulge me for a sec.

    Kansas City is acting like a high school boy. Let's call him K.C.

    The NHL and NBA are like the hot, aloof girls in class.

    K.C. continues to pursue the hot girls, who show no interest in him. All the while, the nice-looking, intelligent girl, who has shown interest in K.C., waits in the corner to be noticed.

    The nice-looking, intelligent girl represents Kansas City Wizards.

    The KCStar is K.C.'s best friend, another high school boy. Instead of telling his best friend, "hey, this nice-looking, intelligent girl really wants a relationship with you, maybe you should forget about the hot girls", the Star is doing what most high school boys' best friends do. They are saying, "yeah, yeah, they're hot...go after them." Even though he has no shot at these girls.

    In time, the nice-looking, intelligent girl begins to lose interest. Wondering why she was even interested in the first place, the nice-looking, intelligent girl starts looking for other boys to date. She strikes up a conversation with a new boy, let's call him Phil A. Delphia.

    Eventually, the dumb high school boy, KC, realizes the nice-looking, intelligent girl is worth his time.

    It's too late. She's already dating a smarter, better-looking guy, Phil.

    And the dumb high school boy is left with nothing.

    The time to keep the Wizards in town is now. Kansas City should enlist the help of, oh I don't know, AEG perhaps.

    AEG operates MLS teams and the unbelievably successful Home Depot Center. I have a friend that toured the facility and called me that day to say, "this place is awesome."

    A Soccer-specific stadium, with an MLS tennant, surrounded by fields for youth/high school soccer and lacrosse is what this city needs. It's a sure fire money maker.

    Someone get it done.

    Before these articles come true.

    Is MLS headed to the area?

    Soccer could find a comfortable niche in this region

    KC Star quotes Kevin Bacon -- says "Remain calm. All is well!"

    Too early to panic for KC’s pro interests

    Well, I commend Randy Covitz for actually givng voice to this story.
    It is the most ignored story in Kansas City sports. However, I find some things in this article strange.

    All those fretting about Kansas City’s chances to attract an NHL or NBA team as an anchor tenant for the Sprint Center need to relax.

    Who is fretting? Fans?

    No, all you hear around here is about who will back up Larry Johnson and who is going to play left tackle.
    It’s too soon to panic. Yes, it looks as if Pittsburgh will retain the Penguins, and Oklahoma City is the future destination of the Seattle SuperSonics, but there will be other franchises looking to move in October 2007.

    Lock this one in the vault. I'll be sure to bring this up again when it does or doesn't happen.

    But you can’t expect an NBA or NHL team, no matter how bad their arena situation is, to start talking about a move in 2007 when there are tickets to sell and a season to play this fall. The Kings, already owned by Sacramento interests, didn’t officially announce plans to move from Kansas City until late January 1985.

    Sure, but the Kings did stop TRYING to sell season tickets long before the beginning of the 1985 season? Yes, they did.

    Los Angeles-based Anschutz Entertainment Group, which invested $50 million in the Sprint Center and will manage the facility, is well-connected in both leagues and has the ear of each commissioner.

    "There are clearly candidates that have not been made public yet," said Michael Roth, vice president/communications for AEG.

    Boy, I just think this is really bad PR. Spreading unsubstantiated rumors and speculation is no way to deal with the media.

    I'm going to guess the question was, "Are there relocation candidates other than the Sonics and Penguins?"

    How about a little honesty? Would that be so bad?

    Mr. Roth could have simply said, "No, not at this time. We believe there will be within the next few months."

    Instead of this silly "not been made public yet." You know what, as far as I'm concerned and I hope other KC sports fans agree, until they are public -- they are NOT candidates for relocation.

    Since Roth said that, perhaps the Star should devote some resources to finding out who these "not been made public" franchises are. That is what a newspaper does, isn't it? Investigate stories...I could be wrong.

    The ideal situation would be if someone with deep pockets in Kansas City stepped up and bought a troubled franchise and moved it here, the way Oklahoma City interests bought the Sonics, instead of having to convince an out-of-towner to move a club.

    "That’s not impossible," Mayor Kay Barnes said Tuesday. "That may be part of the equation."

    With all due respect Ms. Mayor, how about finding someone to purchase the Wizards and keep them here, first?

    They're a great asset to our city. It would be a shame if we lost them to Philadelphia.

    Tuesday, August 01, 2006

    A new twist -- Penguins to Toronto?

    Here's a new twist. A Web site, Howard Bloom's Sports Business News, suggests David and Sam Fingold may move the Penguins to Toronto and not Kansas City.

    Of course, the article is wrought with errors and silly consiracy theories.

    A so called Plan-B to keep the Penguins in Pittsburgh was floated two weeks ago.

    Plan B wasn't floated "two weeks ago". Governor of Philadelphia, err, Pennsylvania Ed Rendell's press conference about Plan B was in March.

    It’s been clear from the beginning, the only casino bidding group committed to building a new arena is Isle of Capri.

    Um, no. The two other casino bidders, Harrah's/Forest City and Don Barden's NorthStar have agreed to the Plan B funding plan.

    Sam Fingold may be based in Hartford, but he grew up in Toronto. His father and brother are based in Toronto. And the fourth member of the group, Michael Cohl, is also based in Toronto. In Cohl, Fingold has a partner who is recognized as one of the world’s leading concert/entertainment promoters. Cohl is currently managing Rolling Stones world tour and is putting together the upcoming Who world tour.

    Consider this scenario and the Penguins could be headed for Toronto, not Kansas City if the arena deal falls through in Pittsburgh. Fingold’s group could offer Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) $100 million in territorial rights to move the franchise into the Air Canada Centre, the current home of the Maple Leafs and the Raptors.

    While we're coming up with ridiculous conspiracy theories, how about this one...

    Sam Fingold owns Kenyon Investments, a real estate investment firm. Kansas City is building the new Power & Light District to go along with the new Sprint Center. Perhaps the Mayor has offered Fingold some kind of sweetheart financial arrangement that if he brings the Penguins to KC he will also have right of first refusal to develop a portion of the Power & Light District.

    Then, Fingold would have a hockey team, a new arena, and 42 dates of foot traffic to his real esate development in downtown KC.

    There. Two silly consipracy theories in two silly Internet postings.

    Neither have any grain of truth.

    Can we just wait to see if Fingold negotiates a lease for the Plan B funded arena...

    Monday, July 31, 2006

    How much for a new arena?

    Interesting article about arena costs in the Pittsburgh paper today.

    I suppose this applies to Orlando, too.

    $290M in funding tight, but doable, for arena

    Several analysts uninvolved in the Pittsburgh discussions view $290 million as a fair starting point for construction-related costs, if the arena is not intended to be among the league's largest, and if it doesn't necessarily include the most luxurious amenities.

    This will be an interesting twist in the Pittsburgh arena saga. Let's say Isle of Capri doesn't get the slots license (seems likely). Sam Fingold and the city, county and state government will have to work out a lease for the $315M Plan B funded arena. But, who pays cost overruns?
    Here's an important paragraph to remember.
    The governor has laid out Plan B as a financial alternative relying on $7.5 million a year for 30 years from the slots licensee, $7 million a year from a state development fund covered by slots revenue, and an annual Penguins contribution that includes a $2.9 million payment and giving up $1.2 million in naming rights that would be directed toward the arena cost. Also, the Pens would be expected to pay $8.5 million up front, as team officials indicated in the past they would be willing to do.

    Just so the Devils are never mentioned as a potential franchise looking to relocate, which some uninformed people say "Why don't the Devils move back to KC?":
    The only NHL arena currently under construction, to open in 2007 in Newark for the New Jersey Devils, carries a price tag of $310 million. It will contain 18,000 seats, 78 luxury suites, 150 food and retail areas, a gourmet restaurant, 750 television monitors and 12 escalators.

    Also, Guy Junker from the Pittsburgh Trib decides to frighten Pittsburgh hockey fans.

    Junker: Future of Penguins grows cloudy

    Early in his bidding process, he talked about moving the team to Kansas City, where there is a new building and a sweetheart deal all but set.

    Well, there isn't a building, yet. And, we have no idea about a sweetheart deal. We know the deal doesn't include operation of the facility and we know AEG must get their cut from any deal in order to pay off their $50M investment.

    Frank Gehry to build arena.

    Remember Frank Gehry, the world famous architect that bid to be the architect of what is now Sprint Center?

    The Frank Gehry that some sports talkers in Kansas City basically made fun of?

    Well, he will build an arena afterall -- in Brooklyn.

    Atlantic Yards will be the new home of the New Jersey (soon to be Brooklyn) Nets.

    The development is backed by Forest City Enterprises. Yes, the group that is working with Harrah's to bidding against Isle of Capri for the slots parlor license in Pittsburgh.

    I guess we'll see what Gehry can do when awarded the opportunity to build a sports facility.

    Sunday, July 30, 2006

    You want to read great sportswriting?

    Ladies and gentelman, Terry Frei.
    Message to all things Penguin: Make up your minds

    What a wonderful column.

    I love this graph:

    For one thing, with Sidney Crosby on the ice and Evgeni Malkin about to join him front and center, the names on the marquee (if the NHL actually allows star names on the marquee) will be compelling and the entertainment quotient high, regardless of where the franchise ends up.

    And this one:
    When Badger Bob Johnson, who coached the Mario Lemieux-led Pens to the Stanley Cup, reprised his trademark line, "It's a great day for hockey," he meant in Pittsburgh, too.

    But at some point, the indignities pile up and become ridiculous, demeaning and even tiresome.

    We're getting dizzy trying to separate the disingenuousness from the sincerity.

    And, if you read this blog with any regularity, you agree 100% with this graph:

    At some point, and that point is rapidly approaching, if not already past, somebody needs to step in and forcefully say: This is getting silly.

    Do yourself a favor and read the entire column.

    Orlando news columnist plays chicken with Magic

    Interesting column in Saturday's Orlando Sentinal.

    DeVos needs us more than we need him

    But with DeVos, there is only vague talk about a "significant'' contribution toward a new arena that would cost between $350 million and $395 million. How do we define "significant"?

    If you look at the market and other arena deals, DeVos should pay more than half the cost of the facility.

    Really? OK, so some guy at Marquette backs up the claim, but David Glass is paying, I believe 7% and the Chiefs are paying, I believe 18%, for renovations to their facilities.

    If Orlando insists on half then we may have the second DeVos owned team in KC (remember Dan DeVos owned the Blades).

    A good model for us is the Dallas Mavericks' American Airlines Center. The city capped its commitment at $125 million, leaving the rest to the Mavericks and NHL's Dallas Stars. They had to cover all cost overruns. Mavericks owner Mark Cuban had plenty of them as he upgraded the facility into a high-tech, state-of-the-art arena with a final price tag of $420 million. The city's share of that came to about 30 percent.

    Interesting, but two franchises who consistently put 95%+ capacity in the building kicked in for AAC. Orlando has one franchise that draws about 90%, 85%, 83%, 85% capacity over the last five years.

    What if DeVos balks at this and threatens to move? We wave goodbye.

    Good. That hack Mike Bianchi should be on the high school beat anyway.

    Kansas City is overextended with football and baseball, and already has lost an NBA team.

    Yes, we lost an NBA and an NHL team. We get it.
    Of course, the NHL team was owned by a bunch of morons who couldn't make a go of it in Denver either and sold the team to John McMullen.

    And, the Kings were in existence in the age before Jordan and the Internet. Some people have told me the Kings' season ticket campaign consisted of waiting for last year's season ticket holders to call to renew their tickets.
    Charlotte lost a team and got one back.
    New Orleans lost a team and got one back.

    We have no other major sports franchises and, with all due respect to UCF, no competition from college sports. Kansas City is overextended with football and baseball, and already has lost an NBA team.

    What do you want to bet me Thomas has never even BEEN to KC.

    If the Magic leave Orlando, this simply creates a void that another franchise will fill, be it from the NBA -- with its ready supply of restless teams -- or another major sport.

    I doubt, however, that NBA Commissioner David Stern is dumb enough to hand over his monopoly here to another league.

    Why? So another team can NOT fill the building.

    Look, I'm all for these owners paying for their own palaces. But, it's just not going to happen. The demand for these teams is too high and the supply to short.

    Orlando better kick in at least $200M plus cost overruns or Devos will take his ball and go. I think asking for any amount more than 33% from this owner is asking for too much.

    Saturday, July 29, 2006

    Fingold to buy Penguins

    This is huge. I told you in May to get to know Sam Fingold.
    Sam Fingold, the 34-year old who once said he would buy the Penguins and move them to Kansas City, will be the first to have exclusive rights to purchase the NHL franchise.

    Fingold agrees to buy Penguins; Promises to keep team here if possible

    "As passionate hockey fans, we are excited about this opportunity to purchase the Pittsburgh Penguins," Mr. Fingold said in a Penguins' news release. "We agree with the current ownership group that the Penguins should remain in Pittsburgh and that a new arena is crucial to the team's long-term success.

    "So many of the elements for success already are in place here, including a loyal fan base and a spectacular core of young talent, led by Sidney Crosby. The Penguins are an important part of Pittsburgh's sports landscape, and it is our objective to do everything possible to secure their future here."

    Even Paul McGannon has some spin on the topic:
    The next 30 days will determine if Pittsburgh is able to come up with financial models and scenarios to stay in Pittsburgh," Mr. McGannon told the Star for a story appearing today.

    "That's the first choice of the league and the current ownership group. But if for whatever reason that does not work out politically or casino-wise or otherwise, what are the other options? Fingold looks at us favorably as an option."

    (and from Friday)
    Fingold ices others in Penguins bidding

    Fingold signed a letter of intent and will have 30-days to negotiate the purchase of the team. This does not mean he will buy the team. Dave Checketts and an Andy Appleby guy both had exclusive 30-day negotiating rights to buy the St. Louis Blues and didn't come away with a purchase. Checketts came back to the table later to eventually buy our beloved Missouri-based franchise.

    Remember, it is still unlikely that Fingold will move the team to KC.

    We need to get a couple of things straight.
    1.) There is no lease agreement for the proposed new arenas in Pittsburgh.
    If Isle of Capri is awarded the slots license, the team stays in Pittsburgh.
    If not, there is a Plan B for a new arena. If a lease is drafted that allows the Penguins to operate the Plan B-funded arena, then the team will stay in Pittsburgh.


    Because the team would generate more revenue by playing in an arena they operate than by playing in an arena they do not operate. AEG will operate Sprint Center.

    What could cause the team to move even with Plan B?

    If the Penguins will not operate the Plan B-funded arena.
    If the Penguins are on the hook for any cost overruns to the arena. Interest rates are not going down. The cost for the bonds to finance the Pittsburgh arena are not going to be any cheaper six months from now. The $300M arena Plan B is proposing could cost more than $350M by the time the agreement is signed and could push $600M by the time the debt is retired.

    Regardless, according to a Post-Gazette story from earlier this week, the NHL may stand in the way of any move.
    NHL bylaws, funding plans should keep Penguins here

    The state and local government's proposed plan for alternative arena funding and the NHL bylaws have dovetailed nicely to make it difficult for a new owner to move the Penguins to another city.

    A copy of the four-page Section 36 of the NHL bylaws, dealing with franchise relocations, was obtained from the league.

    There are 24 areas of consideration that are to be used in determining whether to allow a team to move, including "whether there is a reasonable prospect ... that it could become financially viable" and whether the club received a "publicly financed arena, special tax treatment, or any other form of public financial support."

    A new arena under Plan B would arguably give the Penguins a reasonable chance of financial health, and it could fit the criteria of public financial support.

    Also considered under the NHL bylaws would be local fan support, whether local authorities could help reduce operating costs and whether a move would harm the league's image or make travel, scheduling and divisional alignment difficult.

    The Penguins have no trouble with fan support. Last season they led the NHL in attendance increase. Even with a horrible team.

    A move to KC would, actually, help divisional alignment as the Red Wings, the only Western Conference team in the Eastern time zone, could move back to the Eastern Conference.

    There won't be a public comment coming from the NHL any time soon. However, Bettman has made it pretty clear that he wants to keep the Pittsburgh market in the NHL.

    Friday, July 28, 2006

    Let's compare Web sites

    Winnipeg wants to get the NHL back. They have a guy (group?) trying to help lure an NHL team back to Winnipeg.

    Here is the "Bring back the Jets" Web site.
    Bring back the Jets

    The Hartford wants an NHL team back. The Hartford Whalers' booster clubs still exists and is trying to help lure an NHL team back to Hartford.
    Official site of the Hartford Whalers' Booster Club

    KC wants to get the NHL back. We have a guy (group?) trying to lure an NHL team.

    Here is the NHL21 Web site.

    Could Hornets buzz KC next?

    By the end of 2006, George Shinn wants a final decision on where his team will play in the 2007-08 season and future seasons.

    Basically, he's waiting for the NBA office to say it is OK to move from New Orleans. Why wouldn't they approve a move? New Orleans will never have the population it once had and is now smaller than Omaha.

    Could KC be on Shinn's list?

    Shinn wants decision soon

    If Jason Whitlock thinks David Glass is the WOE (worst owner ever) wait until he gets ahold of George Shinn.

    Thursday, July 27, 2006

    Fingold and two others still in bidding for Penguins

    Three bidders still in running

    Looks like the group with Andrew Murstein (who at one time inquired about buying our Kansas City Wizards) and his group with Mark Cuban and Dan Marino are still in the bidding for the Penguins.

    Interesting quote here:

    Business sense dictates that pushing the sale price closer to $200 million and working to keep the team here could be counter purposes.

    It's thought that the Penguins are worth a lot more as a portable team. Forbes, for instance, most recently estimated the team's worth at $137 million. Several people close to the sale process have said anything significantly higher might reflect a value associated with a team coveted by another city.

    Or perhaps the higher price is just what the market will bear at this time, regardless of where the team ends up, partly because the NHL's year-old collective bargaining agreement gives its teams a more sound financial footing.

    I tend to think it's the NHL's new CBA, which is much more owner friendly -- especially for a team in a medium market like Pittsburgh.

    But, one has to wonder why the Penguins are fetching $175M and the Blues were sold for $150. Perhaps Bill Laurie has no business sense and is a lousy negotiator (actually that's likely).

    Wednesday, July 26, 2006

    What event should open Sprint Center?

    OK, let's talk about something exciting.

    The opening of Sprint Center!

    I think everyone in Kansas City agrees that the concept and building of Sprint Center is a much needed addition to downtown Kansas City's revitalization (along with H&R Block's headquarters, growth of loft apartments and condos and the proposed KCP&L district--photo below left) and the financing through hotel and rental car taxes was the way to go.

    According to, the arena opens in 441 days.

    What do you think should be the first event in the new arena?

    Since the opening will be mid-October 2007, there are a few options.

    A concert or a college basketball game
    (and, I suppose, it could still be an NHL game. No chance for an NBA game since the NBA season doesn't start until November 1)

    Either one, a concert or a basketball game, would have to appeal to a mass audience and ensure a crowed of 18,000+.

    My thought
    Big XII - Big 10(11) Challenge
    Missouri Vs. Iowa

    Kansas Vs. Illinois

    Such an event would not only draw college basketball fans to the NABC Hall of Fame opening, but also appeal to both sides of the state line and would, most likely, draw national television from at least ESPN.

    Missouri vs. a Midwest region powerhouse and Bill Self against his former team, Illinois.

    In 2007, all four teams may be ranked in the preseason top 25.

    The right concert, like Bruce Springsteen, Paul McCartney, Jimmy Buffett, Billy Joel or the Rolling Stones would be sure sellouts, but would they capture the spirit of the arena as well as college hoops?

    Your thoughts?

    Monday, July 24, 2006

    Hartford 2 Kansas City 0

    Kansas City is being shutout by Hartford in its bid for a local owner for an NHL team.

    Nothing would assure Sprint Center of a NHL or NBA tennant like a local, Kansas City owner purchasing a franchise in either league.

    Hartford, on the other hand, has two finalists in the bidding for the Pittsburgh Penguins. The two bidders, Larry Gottesdiener and Sam Fingold even own real estate across the street from each other in the Connecticut city.

    We're About To Save Pittsburgh Again

    That could put Fingold on the same road to K.C. as Gottesdiener wants to take to Hartford.
    Although he has lived in Hartford a number of years, we don't know Fingold. We don't know his game. We do know for some time he was talking as if he was going to move the Penguins to a new arena in Kansas City, but now he's found the Western Pennsylvania religion. In the process, he has taken some cracks at Gottesdiener and [Hartford Mayer Eddie] Perez.

    One shot Fingold took at Eddie Perez was this.
    "I'd rather buy a team and put it in another city than have it in Hartford and deal with [Mayor] Eddie Perez, because I don't think he quite understands all the economics associated with bringing a team to the city," Fingold said. "You think Hartford should spend $290 million on a new arena vs. trying to figure out how to fix the school system and cut down crime?"

    You could replace Hartford with Kansas City in that sentence and it would apply.

    They even have an NHL21-type group in Hartford.
    Pens would find whale of a welcome in Hartford
    Penguins fans might be devastated by that news, but the Whalers Boosters Club -- yes, it remains active -- would be thrilled. Gottesdiener spoke to the group this spring and vowed to work toward bringing the NHL back to Hartford.

    "Nobody wants to see anybody lose their team," said Alan Victor, booster club president. "It's a terrible feeling and we wouldn't wish it on anybody. However, given the NHL is not going to expand, we want NHL hockey in Hartford."

    Hartford currently does not have a new arena online.

    Saturday, July 22, 2006

    Fingold hi bid -- now we know

    Now we know why AEG and NHL21 were so confident an NHL team would come to KC for the 2007-08 season.

    Because they probably knew long ago that the bidders they were working with, David and Sam Fingold, would come in with the high bid.
    Hartford man top bidder for Penguins

    Mr. Fingold has the highest offer of the four active bidders, a figure of around $175 million, sources with knowledge of the negotiation process told the Post-Gazette. At least one other bidder, believed to be Lawrence Gottesdiener, may still attempt to outbid him, a source said.

    This is after another Canadian group, out of Hamilton or Waterloo, made the initial high bid, but supposedly dropped out because they were told relocating the franchise was not an option.

    The $175M bid is $25M more than the St. Louis Blues sale price.

    In the last week or so, the NHL has basically said "no dice" to a franchise relocation because the Penguins don't meet the criteria for such a location.

    The criteria since 1993 seems to be "if the franchis is in a former WHA market".

    During the first couple of weeks in May, Sam Fingold confirmed that he had conversations with a group in KC about moving the Penguins to Sprint Center in both the Toronto Star and on Toronot radio station The Fan 590.
    Torontonian wants to move Penguins to KC
    Sam Fingold -- Get to know him!

    Then on July 13 Fingold told the Hartford Courant that he doesn't think the franchise will relocate.
    Penguins Move Won't Fly, Developer Says

    On July 18, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette printed a story stating the NHL will stand in the way of a Penguins' relocation.
    Roadblock impedes Penguins' exit

    AEG and NHL21 are still hoping.
    Penguins fans seem to be on a roller coaster. Now, they are nervous again.

    Friday, July 21, 2006

    KC Star Op-Ed comes around to no Pens

    The Kansas City Star's Op-Ed page is now on board that it looks bleak for an NBA or NHL team to relocate to Kansas City.

    Keep pressing for events at KC’s Sprint Center

    Let's break this opinion down paragraph by paragraph.

    Construction is proceeding at a good pace on Kansas City’s Sprint Center. City officials report plenty of money on hand for the project.

    Good news.
    And the arena’s top leaders are working diligently to bring all kinds of events — from concerts to Arena Football League games — to the building once it opens in late 2007.

    Has Tyler Prochnow and the Brigade officially announced that they can move to Sprint Center? I haven't heard.
    That would be good. Arena Football is a nice addition to our sports landscape. Plus, the Brigade's logo is cool.

    This is exactly what Kansas Citians had hoped would happen when they approved the arena in 2004 to help revive downtown and replace the aging Kemper Arena.

    Well, almost exactly.

    As the sound effect goes, Wa-wa-waaaaaa
    This week Kansas City officials got some discouraging news about their attempts to woo a professional basketball or hockey team to the Sprint Center.

    This week? This week? It has been nearly nothing but discouraging news for six months. Read through my 100+ posts. The Star chose to ignore what was happening in Pittsburgh, the Penguins inching closer and closer to staying in Pittsburgh.

    One loyal Kansas City-area hockey fan once wrote, "Pennsylvania politics will prevail" more than a year ago about whether the Penguins would move. I don't know if it was the alliteration or the fact that he's a Western PA native, but it stuck with me. I began to follow what was going on in Pittsburgh, then, started this blog because I'd read about newsworthy events in Pittsburgh or other cities and find nothing in the Star.
    It appears the Seattle SuperSonics of the National Basketball Association will move in a few years to Oklahoma City. And the Pittsburgh Penguins of the National Hockey League will stay put. Both franchises had been on the list of possible major-league franchises for Kansas City.

    Mayor Kay Barnes remains upbeat, putting some pressure where it belongs: on the Anschutz Entertainment Group. The company, which is the city’s partner in building the Sprint Center, is on the hook to cover operating cost overruns for the facility.

    Of course Barnes remains upbeat. She's a politician. What is she going to do? Throw in the towel?
    And, putting pressure on AEG is misguided at best. AEG can't WILL a franchise to break their lease or sell their arena.
    Anschutz Entertainment needs to keep up the full-court press to get a NBA or NHL team to Kansas City. A club would bring thousands of people downtown about 40 times a year. Among other benefits, this would be a tremendous boon to the nearby Kansas City Power & Light District.

    How come he didn't say "keep up the strong forecheck" instead of "full-court press"?

    Yes, NHL or NBA would bring thousands of people downtown about 40 times a year. But, so would the AHL. Maybe 8,500 and not 17,000, but it's better than 0. Combine the AHL with the AFL and you have a base of nearly 500,000 visitors from which to build. Not bad.
    In the meantime, Kansas Citians recognize that the Sprint Center promises to be a great addition to downtown.

    Yes, we do.
    And, yes it absolutely is.

    However, continuing to misinform Kansas Citians about the possibility of the NHL is irresponsible. The NBA seems to be in a greater state of flux with the Orlando Magic, NO/OKC/Charlotte Hornets and Portland Trailblazers with tenuous arena deals.

    I do believe, based on the history of NHL franchises, there is one NHL team that may consider relocating to KC. More on that later.

    Thursday, July 20, 2006

    Serious competition from Hamilton, Ontario

    So it seems this group from Hamilton, Ontario won't go away. A couple days ago we posted a link to a story in the Pittsburgh paper about a group from Canada that withdrew their bid for the Penguins because it looks as if the franchise will not leave Pittsburgh.

    Well, according to a story in today's Pittsburgh paper, this Canadian group is still going to pursue an NHL team for Hamilton, Ontario -- just not the Penguins.

    Canadian group still desires NHL

    It appears the group from Canada that withdrew its bid to buy the Penguins is interested in bringing the NHL to Hamilton, Ontario.

    It's just not likely to be the Penguins.

    A group whose money men are so secretive that only a few well-placed government officials know their identity has had a $200,000 deal with Hamilton that gives it proprietorship over Copps Coliseum. That deal expires in about six months, but there were talks recently to extend it.

    What does Hamilton, a city sandwiched between NHL cities Toronto and Buffalo have over Kansas City? A local ownership group who will operate an arena.

    Honestly, I don't think the NHL would welcome a team in Hamilton. It doesn't extend the league's "footprint". But, when you have a bidder willing to put up $175M when the recent selling price of another medium-to-small market team was $150M, it certainly gets everyones attention.