Blue Jackets Talk About Relocation
The Blue Jackets, like many other teams in the NHL (Phoenix, Atlanta being two prime examples), struggle to find ways to make money in a small hockey market. The Blue Jackets lost $25 million dollars last year alone, along with another $28 million dollars the two years prior. This has lead majority owner John McConnell to state this during an interview with The Columbus Dispatch: “I am not looking to sell (the Blue Jackets). If this doesn’t work … you know, I really don’t have any options other than staying the owner as the team is moved. I’m hopeful that’s not going to occur. We’re going forward as if it’s not.”
Of course, this is probably just a scare tactic; Columbus simply cannot afford to have the Blue Jackets move. When the city of Columbus knew they would be acquiring a hockey team – they built up the area around the arena, conveniently naming the area the Arena District. During the NHL lockout of 2004-2005 many businesses took huge hits, forcing a couple to even close. This area, which attracts over one million visitors per year, could simply not afford to have the Blue Jackets relocate. It looks like it is now in the city's hands to make sure that doesn't happen.
Mayor Coleman reported to Portzline, “If they leave, the consequences are as follows: The Arena District, which used to be an abandoned prison site, will see a rapid erosion of jobs, of opportunity and of vibrancy. You’d have one of the largest vacant buildings in the nation, and I know how difficult it is to fill a large, empty building — Lazarus, the City Center …
When you begin falling, it’s hard to stop that fall until you hit bottom. I personally believe the Blue Jackets need to be in Columbus. There needs to be a solution to the arena lease issue because that is the problem.”
The Blue Jackets even had NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman fly in last week to explain the situation and look for guidance in the upcoming season(s). While Bettman was hopeful concerning the mess the Jackets got themselves in with this current leasing deal (more on that a little later), his visit alone shows the teams concern about the financial situation they are in. They need money, and they need options.
The city of Columbus has been exploring many of those options ever since the team made it public three years ago that they needed help with their team and current leasing deal with Nationwide Arena. Nationwide Arena is one of few arenas in the country that is completely privately owned. The Blue Jackets receive less funding on parking, luxury boxes, and even the arena naming rights.
One option may finally become available during the fourth quarter of 2012. The (currently under construction) Hollywood Casino could generate upwards of a combined $40 million dollars for the city and county, money which could be spent to help the Blue Jackets stay in Columbus.
While nothing has been made official yet, it does appear that the some of that revenue will be used to help cut some of the team's losses. Residents of Columbus have turned down numerous votes to help build the arena downtown (pre-Nationwide era); however, tax money revenue generated from a private business does not need to be put on a ballot. So although the tax payers voted down building the arena originally, it appears it will be their money which will be used to maintain it.
In addition to the casino funding, the Blue Jackets could just make the playoffs. Historically, teams that make the playoffs, draw larger crowds, and larger crowds mean more money. Maybe with the acquisition of Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski the Blue Jackets could do just that. Those two things happen, and not only may we end all relocation talks, but we could potentially be writing articles about the team turning a profit.
One thing is for certain: the ironic situation behind John McConnell's talks about relocation (being that it was his father who brought the team here) will continue for another year or two, and all the details concerning the team receiving any funding are sketchy at the current time, mainly because all the details have not been ironed out.
So while the fog around the city is finally starting to lighten up, our only option currently is to wait around and see what happens. Will there be a dark clouds or rainbows after everything settles? Weigh in by posting a comment below.
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