Is the NHL coming to KC?
IT’S TIME FOR FACTS RATHER THAN POSTURING
(the first post is quite long, sorry)
The announcement of Kansas City’s Sprint Center, a beautiful 18,500 seat downtown arena, has spurred speculation of either an NBA or NHL making the arena home.
The purpose of this blog is to follow the drama that is unfolding surrounding an NHL team coming to KC.
No flowing prose. No quotes from NHL21. No posturing from parties involved on either side.
Just factual information (and my opinions…but mostly facts)
This will be a long, slow, drawn-out process over the next 8 – 10 months.
The situation is constantly changing, evolving, and I will try to provide you with links to stories from around the country that mention Kansas City and the NHL.
The Pittsburgh Penguins seem to be a likely candidate to move from their current home, the outdate Mellon Arena, to the Sprint Center.
If one oversimplifies the situation, as some Kansas City journalists have done, yes it seems the Penguins are a likely candidate to relocate. However, it is much more complicated.
Here is the bottom line to the entire situation:
- The Pittsburgh Penguins are officially for sale. Their current ownership, Hall of Fame player Mario Lemeuix and a group of investors will not move the Penguins. However, a new ownership group might.
- The current ownership says that in order for the team to survive in Pittsburgh they must have a new arena in which to play. Mellon Arena is the oldest arena in the NHL.
- The Penguins ownership is NOT holding the city hostage for public money for a new arena.
- The Penguins are bidding for one of five slots parlor licenses in Pennsylvania. The state approved slots gambling at 14 locations throughout the state (seven racetracks, five parlors and two resorts). One of the parlor licenses will go to the Pittsburgh area. The Penguins, in partnership with Isle of Capri Casinos, has entered a proposal for the Pittsbrugh slots parlor license. The team has said that they will use their portion of the slots parlor revenue to fund a new arena in the lower Hill district (near the current Mellon Arena).
- The Penguins are in a serious battle for the Pittsburgh slots license with a heavyweight champion, Harrah’s Casinos, the largest gaming company in the U.S. Rumor has it that Harrah’s Casinos is the preferred choice of Democratic Governor Ed Rendell.
- As part of the sale of the franchise, the new owners must agree to honor the partnership with Isle of Capri Casinos. If the Penguins/IOC is awarded the slots parlor license, the new owner must keep the team in Pittsburgh and play in the resulting arena.
- For more information go to http://www.slotsformario.com/
- The Penguins lease at Mellon Arena is up in 2007.
- The slots license will be awarded in late 2006.
- The bottom line to all this is summed up in the final paragraph in a recent Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article.
- “The state Gaming Control Board will decide, after reviewing the proposals and holding hearings, which is best for Pittsburgh.”
- The Penguins may start negotiating with other cities beginning June of 2006, one year from the ending of their current lease.
- The Penguins ownership will begin taking offers for purchase of the franchise now.
- All of this adds up to a 50/50 chance that the Penguins will stay in Pittsburgh.
KANSAS CITY MENTIONED ON HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA
On Saturday, January 23, NHL analyst and former NHL goaltender John Davidson said “…if the [Pittsburgh] Penguins move, from what I hear, the frontrunners are Kansas City, Houston, Las Vegas and Winnipeg.” This mention was on “Satellite Hot Stove” which is the segment between the second and third period of the early Hockey Night in Canada game. Of course, take this with a grain of salt because one of the other “experts” on the show said that if the “Penguins win the slots lottery” they won’t move. Slots lottery?
This isn’t a “lottery” at all. The slots license is a political football that is being kicked all over Harrisburg and, may, include some corrupt dealings with EXTREMELY powerful lobbying organizations.
Another HNIC expert said that Mark Cuban, a Pittsburgh native, could purchase the Penguins and keep them in the Iron City. No way. Cuban has said publicly that he is NOT interested in owning another professional sports franchise. He has said he is busy enough with the Mavericks, HDNet and Landmark Theaters.
Let’s take a quick look at the cities mentioned and one more that could enter the mix.
- Pro – new arena and Houston Rockets owner Les Alexander expresses interest in owning an NHL team also.
- Con – not necessarily a hockey market…may be a tough sell
- Pro – new arena and successful season ticket campaign for a NHL team
- Con – EJ Hradek of ESPN.com says, even though the building, the MTS Centre, has been refurbished, it is still too small for an NHL team. Hradek says the “footprint” of the building is also small, which means the corridor, etc. are more narrow than some of the other new arenas.
- Canadian cities add zero US TV sets, which is important to the NHL. Some in Winnipeg admit they are a long shot for an NHL return.
- 10 years later, Jets fans still holding out for hope
- Las Vegas
- Pro – fastest growing city in the country may be the home of a NBA, NHL or MLB franchise within the next 10 years. Boots Delbaggio once entered into an agreement with Mario Lemeiux to purchase part of the Penguins. However, Boots says he is not interested in purchasing the team, which severely hampers Las Vegas’ effort. The rumor was Boots, a San Jose businessman, wanted to tap into the LV market.
- Con – does not have an NHL ready arena like the other cities. Still only the #51 US TV market
MARIO SKATING OFF INTO THE SUNSET
Mario Lemieux seemed rejuvenated when the Penguins won the post-lockout lottery and won the right to draft Sidney Crosby. Mr. Lemieux had met and played pick-up games with Crosby in the past. Mr. Lemieux knew and liked Sid the Kid and was thrilled with the opportunity to play with him. Mr. Lemieux invited the young superstar to live in his house in order to make Sid the Kid’s transition to the NHL smooth and to make sure the kid didn’t fall victim to increase fame and fortune at such a young age.
Penguins fans responded and purchased season and individual tickets in record numbers. Mr. Lemieux responded by spending money on free agents like Sergei Gonchar, John LeClair, Zigmund Palffy and Jocelyn Thibault.
Mr. Lemieux good friend, Ed Olcyk, was named the head coach.
Things were going very well for Mario.
Then, the team started very poorly. Gonchar forgot how to play defense. Thibault wasn’t sharp as a result of the layoff and previous injuries. The game had passed John LeClair by.
On top of the team playing poorly, the Penguins organization was losing the political battle that is developing around Pittsburgh’s new arena and the Pittsburgh-area slots license.
Mr. Lemieux started suffering from an irregular heartbeat, a scary condition for a man with a beautiful, young family.
So, Mr. Lemieux has decided to ride of into the sunset, relinquish his duties as CEO of the organization and, possibly, sell the team and wash his hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Mr. Lemieux will remain a legend in Pittsburgh. He brought the team two Stanley Cups, came back from Hodgkin’s Disease to play again, rescued the team from bankruptcy, runs legendary charitable organizations in Western Pennsylvania and did all he could to replace Pittsburgh’s outdated arena. In the end, he won Stanley Cups, but couldn’t win political battles.
Kansas City may be the Penguins new home. The Penguins may remain in Pittsburgh. Either way, Lemieux seems to be singing “Happy Trails”.
HOW KC CAN GET THE NHL
Step 1 – build a new arena
CHECK – New Sprint Center opening in 2007
Step 2A – a current NHL team must be put up for sale
CHECK – Pittsburgh Penguins and St. Louis Blues are for sale.
Step 2B – a current NHL must decide their facility and the market in which they play is inadequate. The team ownership must believe KC and the Sprint Center is a viable replacement.
Step 3 – A party must buy a NHL team with the purpose of moving that team to KC.
Not complete – It is possible Pittsburgh fits this step. It is NOT possible for St. Louis to fit this step because the sale of the team includes $60 million debt service on the Savvis Center, essentially increasing the price of the team by nearly 60%. The Blues are NOT going to move from St. Louis.
Step 4 – Provide the prospective NHL team with a lease agreement that allows the team to be extraordinarily profitable in a medium-sized market like Kansas City. A team in Houston would, most likely, generate more revenue because of higher prices for luxury boxes, sponsorship and radio/TV contracts.
PENNSYLVANIA GOVERNOR SAYS PENS SHOULD HAVE A PLAN B
Shelly Anderson from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette appeared on NHL Live this morning with Joe Tolleson and Zig Fricasi. NHL Live is a daily two-hour hockey talk show on Sirius satellite radio and http://www.nhl.com/.
She said that it appears the Penguins have no control over politics. Their future is in the hands of politicians. There is no doubt that the city of Pittsburgh needs a new arena, whether it be for the NHL or concerts or conventions. The Penguins want to help the city, and themselves, by building an arena with slots parlor profits, not taxpayer money, but slots parlor revenue.
She said it is obvious promises have been made to casino operators. What those promises are is not known.
The Governor doesn’t seem to be on the Penguins side. He says they should have a “Plan B” in place for getting a new arena in Pittsburgh. The Governor, a Philadelphia native, suggests doing something like what was done in Philly with Wachovia Center. Most of the $206 million for Wachovia Center came through private money. The state provided money in upgrade the infrastructure around the new arena.
THE PENGUINS BIGGEST RIVAL
It is not the Flyers
It is Harrah’s Station Square Casino
The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (how great would it be to have two COMPETING newspapers) has an interesting article on the Harrah’s Station Square Casino proposal (the main competition for the Penguins/Isle of Capri Casino proposal). Harrah’s is the largest gaming firm in the U.S.
It’s an impressive proposal, $1 billion, with a hotel and condos. However, Pittsburgh doesn’t need condos. It needs an arena.
There are also a two good articles from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
This article is especially interesting because it compares the four proposals for the Pittsburgh slots license. Basically, there are two heavyweight proposals and two longshot proposals.
If you are a Pens fan and believe the license should be awarded to Penguins/IOC, then this Harrah’s proposal looks weak.
If you are a state politician, looking for kick-backs and campaign contributions, this looks like a great proposal.
This stuff about created a “new neighborhood” is such crap. Yeah, the four casinos in Kansas City have really created new neighborhoods.
TAXPAYER MONEY OR PRIVATE MONEY – PENN. GOVERNOR SUGGESTS PUBLIC MONEY PLAN
In a really odd twist, which wouldn’t happen anywhere else, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell is suggesting the Pittsburgh Penguins come up with a Plan B for financing a new arena – one which includes public money.
Let me get this straight…
Municipalities and taxpayers across the country are saying “put the burden on these billionaire sports franchise owners to build, or at least partially finance, their own arenas/stadiums.” The Cardinals put up money in St. Louis. The Chiefs and Royals are willing to put up money in Kansas City.
And, in Pittsburgh, the Penguins are doing just that. The Penguins have a plan which involves $0 taxpayer money for a $290 million arena.
Yet, the State’s Governor, is suggesting the Penguins come up with a plan that involves taxpayer money.
It’s financing-an-arena bizarro world.
Comments like this one seem to swing it to 60-40 the Pens will move.
KC MAY GET AN NHL TEAM AS A RESULT OF INSIDE POLITICS IN THE PENNSYLVANIA STATEHOUSE
If KC gets the Penguins, hockey fans in KC should have a jersey retired in Ed Rendell’s name because the only reason why we are in the running to get the Pittsburgh Penguins is because of Ed Rendell’s disingenuous actions.
We, Kansas City, are not contributing to the corruption oozing from this situation (the Pittsburgh slots parlor license), yet we would benefit from it.
Is that wrong?