Sports Facilities Casualty List

In the wake of Calgary’s ultimatum of possibly leaving if the 31 year old Saddledome arena is not replaced in the immediate future, it is good to remind these dwellers in the unreal world of professional sports and especially the taxpayers and (usually) their spineless governments who are called upon to provide most, if not all the funds for new sports facilities, which in many cases do not fulfill the dreams they are supposed to bring about, that in many instances, a huge waste results. Here is a partial list in both hockey and other North American sports of the terrible waste of capital and other resources to build the wrong sports facilities.

Wrong Design

1. Montreal Olympic Stadium

The Olympics and their arrogance always want the grandest spectacle possible that usually lasts for the three weeks the games last. Especially to see on the first day, a group of athletes clad in their official attire walk behind two people, one carrying a sign with the country’s name on it and another carrying a pole with a piece of cloth on it which is deemed the symbolic flag of its country. For such a spectacle, the cost of the 1976 stadium was over $1 billion dollars. But after the games were over, most Montrealers decided they did not like watching the CFL Alouettes and the MLB Expos play in that facility. Today the Alouettes play somewhere else, the Expos are gone and probably won’t return until a new baseball stadium is built for them.

2. Toronto Skydome

It was overdue that Toronto get a new stadium in the 1980s. Both the Toronto Argonauts and the Toronto Blue Jays had dreams of playing in some better place. There was talk of getting an NFL team and the Olympics. And a few extra perks like a retractable roof were icing on the cake. If you are going to build something like that, you might as well go all the way. Fair enough. But for heaven’s sake, you choose the right design and build it right. In certain sections of the SkyDome upper deck, nobody can see if a fielder has caught a ball if it is hit to that part of the ballpark. You have to wait for the replay on the big screen to know. Then Toronto Argonaut fans decided they did not like watching football in the stadium any more than the Montreal fans did in theirs. Today the Argonauts play somewhere else. And plans for an NFL team and the Olympics went into the can when it was found out that the Skydome only seats about 50,000 people. A stadium that was built for over half a billion dollars is now only worth about $25 million.

3. Barclay’s Center

The New York Islanders play in the worst arena in the NHL. The arena has the second smallest seating capacity ahead of only Winnipeg. There is bad ice and still worse, 1,000 obstructive view seats for hockey. The Islanders despite having a competitive team cannot sell out the arena. Recently, Hartford sent them an open letter inviting them to move to a renovated XL Center where they would become the new Whalers. The very existence of the franchise in New York is at stake if they cannot find a suitable new arena.

Betrayed Dreams

1. Copps Coliseum, Hamilton

In the mid-1980s, Hamilton built a new arena in anticipation of NHL expansion. Everyone liked it and Hamilton played host to most of the games of the 1987 Canada Cup. The NHL announced plans to grow the league through the 1990s to becoming 30 or more teams. But during the first expansion in which Hamilton was a front runner, the potential bidder, Tim Donut did not like the NHL’s terms and wanted to renegotiate them. The NHL like all North American sports leagues refused to make any concessions and the new Hamilton team became a returned Ottawa Senators. Hamilton’s arena still makes money but did not fulfill the purpose for which it was built. The NHL continues to cold-shoulder Hamilton, thanks mostly to Toronto and Buffalo who want extensive compensation from a new Hamilton franchise. The Hamilton city council has offered to spend $50 million to upgrade the arena. The market is there, the arena is there but one of the two best Canadian markets without an NHL team still has no franchise.

2. Videotron, Quebec City

In 2010, NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman issued three factors for the readmission of Quebec, Winnipeg, and Hartford which had lost their NHL teams two decades ago. They had to have a sufficient fan base, a proper NHL arena, and a suitable owner (No mention of a $500 million entry fee). Quebec always had the fan base, now they have the arena, but the NHL cannot abide the potential owner, Pierre Karl Peladeau who made many enemies on the NHL Board by his separatist politics, his obstructionist business practices, his inappropriate racial remarks about an NHL Board member, and his general untrustworthiness and unpredictability. No other suitable Quebec City owner has yet appeared, so an arena that the NHL loves, that has a fanatical hockey fan base, has no professional hockey tenant.

3. Sprint Center, Kansas City

This arena which opened in 2007 was built to get both an NHL franchise and an NBA team. But no investors for either a hockey or basketball team trusts the Kansas City market. The NHL has played exhibition games there which were either half full or a sellout depending upon who played. Other cities are considered well ahead of Kansas City for NHL and NBA expansion. The Sprint Center makes money like its counterpart in Hamilton but still does not have a professional sports team tenant that was supposed to be the main reason for it being built.

League Treachery And Arrogance

1. Dome Stadium, St. Louis

St. Louis opened a 70,000 seat domed stadium in 1995 to lure the NFL back to the city. There is nothing wrong with this facility and the Rams got good attendance. But St. Louis is not as big a market as Los Angeles, the second largest market in the United States. So when Los Angeles, which had snubbed the NFL for two decades finally decided to build a suitable stadium, the NFL immediately cooked up phony excuses and shifted the Rams back to where they came from. The Rams were soon followed by the San Diego Chargers and then Oakland was moved to Las Vegas. Both the Raiders and Chargers played in older stadiums which the arrogant NFL long hated and was only waiting for a “better deal” to come along to move the teams. Of course the NFL only had to expand the league and no city would have lost its team but that was never a considered policy of the most arrogant and ruthless sports league in North America which allows franchise shifts, sometimes on only the mere whim of a prissy billionaire owner. That extensive casualty list includes both Los Angeles teams, Oakland (twice), St. Louis (twice), Cleveland, Houston,  San Diego, and Baltimore. It is also important to note that there were websites listing Minnesota, Jacksonville, and Buffalo as well as the three victim cities as other potential casualties. So much for fan loyalty, tradition, and local investment.

Wrong Location And Bad Product

1. Gila River Arena, Phoenix

13 years ago, the then Phoenix Coyotes were glad to move into this new arena, built especially for them in Glendale, Arizona. Today both Glendale and the NHL have publicly declared they are finished with each other after only 13 years. Each side claims that the arena is too far away from downtown Phoenix and Glendale further asserts that nobody is going to support a team that in truth has only produced one contending team for the Stanley Cup in its entire existence. Suburban Tempe turned down a chance to build a new arena. A bill to provide more public funding for yet another arena has come to nothing. An arena, only 13 years old now has no professional league tenant with the blessing of its community.

 

So Calgary and its taxpayers are fully justified in taking their time and closely examining any deal for any new sports facility including the joint NHL-CFL Calgary Next mega-project. In the fickle world of North American professional sports, the entire project could blow up in their faces leaving an immense bill to be paid that could be financially crippling. You only get one shot with these immense sports projects so you better take your time and get it right.

As for the Flames and their threats of moving, they should be showing cooperation, not unbridled arrogance. They are only saying what they are saying because of the fanatical devotion of their fans. As mentioned in a previous article, nobody is talking about leaving or tearing down the Empire State Building even though it is 86 years old. There are no complaints about old Wrigley Field and Fenway Park in baseball. Just what IS wrong with the Saddledome? What does it lack? It has never been completely spelled out. There were no complaints by the Flames 31 years ago.

This is just a power play, more of the arrogance from the unreal, greedy world of North American professional sports. Go ahead and leave Flames, if that is what you want. But Calgary without the Flames would not only be heartbreaking for their fans, but an embarrassment for the NHL. What does the league want, another Phoenix situation? There should be more answers and explanations on the table that are owed to the Calgary taxpayers. They are not a bottomless pit. Since when are arenas and stadiums “owed” to sports franchise owners? And since when does the public have to deal with blackmailers? If the Flames were to move, Calgary would be better off without such owners and its league.

 

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9 thoughts on “Sports Facilities Casualty List

  1. We lost the Whalers because the governor wouldn’t offer Karmanos 45 mil for potential losses while in the Civic Center for about 3 years. It would’ve been like, okay that’s logical, but he then tried to woo the Patriots to Hartford with a stadium deal worth almost 1 billion dollars. That clearly didn’t work out and now Hartford is stuck with no professional sports teams, but governor that’s trying to get the legislature to spend 250 mil to renovate the XL, so hopefully that works and the NHL can return soon.

    • Thanks for commenting Ki. After years of dormancy Hartford is finally taking steps to actively get back into the NHL like Winnipeg did and the current Quebec effort. I think you have a good chance of getting the Whalers back soon. In 2010, Bettman made a tour of the 3 NHL cities who lost their franchises and offered them reasonable terms for readmission; good fan base (no problem for Hartford), a proper NHL arena, and a suitable owner (no mention of a $500 million expansion fee then. The $250 million renovation seems set to go forward. The question is will the NHL accept a renovated 41 year old building or will they want a brand new arena? The other key question is who will own the new team? One solution is that Hartford is trying to lure the New York Islanders who are currently having arena problems and turn them into the new Hartford Whalers. The problem with that is will the NHL want to see a team that has such a glorious history disappear? I still haven’t heard of anybody willing to front a bid to get Hartford expansion franchise. Have you? They have got to find somebody suitable because if they get the wrong potential owner, there will be another mess like the current Quebec bid. But Bettman and the NHL have made an unofficial commitment to bring back the Whalers if they meet all the three factors listed above and if they do, I would expect the Whalers to return within the next decade.

      • I do not think Hartford is looking into an expansion team, but rather a relocation of a team such as Carolina or Florida. The Whalers message board over at http://whalers.courant2.com is a good place to find some information about new things that are happening, though be advised that there are quite a few trolls there. The next few relocations/expansions I can see viably happening are an expansion for Seatle, to get the league to an even number of teams, Arizona relocating to Milwakue (to keep divisions and conferences balanced), then Carolina or Florida to QC. Whalers plates coming to CT next year too so clearly the fan base is still there.

  2. Thanks for commenting Ki. I will definitely check out that website. The only announcements about Hartford getting a team by relocation have concerned the New York Islanders. You are right about Seattle being the western front runner but they blew it during the last expansion because of the arena issue and as long as they continue to dither, they could blow it again. I like your choice of Milwaukee which is a real hockey city but like the Islanders, the new Milwaukee arena is built for the NBA, not hockey and is small by NHL standards. So far there is no talk about a relocated team for Quebec but if Bettman cannot find a suitable expansion owner, relocation may be the only option for Quebec.

    • The main reason I think that Milwaukee will probably get a team is because the league wants to expand to Seattle to even out conferences at 16 a piece, but the Yotes are a sinking ship and will need somewhere to relocate, so it will probably end up being a place like Milwaukee, or maybe even Kansas City, and I see no other likely way of Milwaukee getting a team

  3. Thanks for replying Ki. Actually what I have read is that if Coyotes have to move, the cities they have been rumored to be talking to are Portland and Seattle. Still Milwaukee would be a good choice too. Kansas City has the Sprint Center but as mentioned in the article, nobody believes in the market enough to experiment in Kansas City again.

  4. As a Blues fan I loved the idea of KC. However they don’t seem to care.
    When super mario talked of moving the pens I was cool, another good close rival. However KC has no interest in hockey. Thats what I saw. Also I want to say thank about mentioning the St louis football team. We lost the football team but we lost even more. We were up for a MLS expansion and after the nfl left the public wouldn’t spend any money for a fairly cheap mls stadium. Then the Blues needed upgrades for scottrade and well thankfully that passed.

  5. Thanks for replying Josh. I think regular Kansas City – St. Louis matchups which seldom happened in either MLB or the NFL would be a winner in hockey. Kansas City once had an NHL team in the 1970s but it only lasted two years. Investors just don’t trust the market for both the NHL and the NBA.

    I don’t think you have to worry about getting a soccer team if you get refocused about an appropriate stadium. From what I’ve seen, new MLS franchises are mushrooming all the time .and if an appropriate stadium is built and suitable owner found, MLS will come calling again. Whereas the “big 4” leagues have been conservative about expanding, MLS, in an effort to reach status parity with them has been willing to expand quickly and everywhere.

    I’m sorry St. Louis has lost its football team again. I can’t see what is wrong with your stadium though the NFL claimed there was problems. I was an Oakland fan and the thought of “Las Vegas Raiders” goes completely against the tough image of the team. The NFL can’t keep sitting at the 32 team limit forever. There are too many good markets available not for them to expand to 40 teams. Besides St. Louis, Oakland, and San Diego, there is Birmingham, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Antonio, Oklahoma City, Columbus, Louisville, Memphis, Milwaukee, Sacramento and possibly foreign markets in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Mexico City, and London. There is also talk about the CFL trying American expansion again, so hopefully you’ll get some kind of football team again soon.

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