Monday, May 18, 2009

Copps Coliseum

I have been doing some thinking about the viability of moving a NHL franchise to Hamilton. I don't think Balsille particularly cares what city he relocates to. From a maximizing profitability of a franchise in Southern Ontario, the optimal location for a stadium is probably somewhere along the 401 between Kitchener and Guelph. That puts them within an hour drive of Hamilton, Mississauga, Kitchener, Guelph, Cambridge, Brampton, and so on and so forth. Just in terms of most convenient distance from the greatest number of consumers. That also puts a little more distance from Buffalo, which is unquestionably the most at risk for a disastrous loss of revenue.

However, the reason Hamilton is at the front of the line for Balsille destinations is because they have the most NHL ready stadium in the region. It is a matter of securing his most realistic sequence of events. His first obstacle obviously is just being able to buy a team. Bettman for reasons previously discussed does not want him to purchase a franchise, and has blocked every attempt he has made at entry into the league. This is now his third attempt, and if it fails I am certain that it won't be his last. It is also abundantly clear that if Balsille is successful in attaining ownership, he wants to relocate immediately. He has made his intentions very public, to the point where this most recent offer includes a clause that he be allowed to move the franchise. It is a double edged sword, because on one hand it is likely the biggest reason that he has been repeatedly denied entry into the ownership club, but also ensures that if he were to get a team, he would not have to wait a number of years to move them.

Copps Coliseum cannot be a permanent home. Aside from its age, the biggest structural flaw is that it has fewer than 10 luxury suites. That is a big deal. The Canucks have roughly 30 suites, and they are a cash cow for the organization. We're talking about millions of dollars annually. Logically even if you retrofit and upgrade Copps Coliseum, it will only be a temporary home. Bettman is even citing the capacity of the facility in Hamilton to support his contention that Balsille should not be allowed to move a team to that location. It would appear that Balsille has no desire to adopt an "if you build it, they will come" strategy, and do what has been done in Kansas City and build an NHL/NBA ready facility before securing a franchise. That is a high risk move, and a financial albatross each year that the stadium remains operational without a primary tenant. You can't pay for a 500 million dollar building by holding a few Hannah Montana concerts.

What it comes down to now is whether or not the taxpayers of Hamilton want to spend money to upgrade Copps Coliseum when it is only going to be a temporary home. While Jimmy is heavily courting Hamilton right now, once he is able to get a franchise north of the border, his attention will immediately shift to building a new barn. Will that be in Hamilton? Perhaps it is the most probable destination, but it is not a certainty. It is a complex financial equation that involves negotiating land purchase, property tax, building permits, etc, etc. If Kitchener offers him a nice piece of real estate and a good deal on taxes and if it will cost more to build in Hamilton and you could end up with the Kitchener Coyotes.


  1. Hamilton had an NHL team once before

  2. You could build a stadium in Kitchener with a retractable roof. It could be called the RIM Center. And when you pulled back the roof you could call it "roll up the RIM".

  3. I have a long held theory that a Southern Ontario team is almost fool proof, except in Hamilton. People outside of Hamilton will not cheer for a Hamilton team. People from Mississauga, Brampton, Milton, Kitchener Waterloo will not drive to Hamilton (never mind Toronto - they will stay Leaf fans regardless).
    Your right about the 401, that's where the growth is happening, and that, or North Toronto, i swere the team should be.