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.