No pun intended, but everyone around the “hockey world” knows about the financial situation the Phoenix Coyotes are in. We even reported its sale to the NHL last week. The Associated Press reported today that the Columbus Blue Jackets are in a major financial bind, and that central Ohio might lose its NHL franchise.
A member of the 2000 expansion, the Blue Jackets came to an area that wasn’t new to hockey. Ohio has had franchise in NHL before, when the Cleveland Barons failed in the 1970’s. Ohio has also had franchises in the minor leagues in recent years including the Cleveland Lumberjacks, Cincinnati Mighty Ducks, and currently the Lake Erie Monsters play in the AHL.
Just like everyone in these economic times, people and teams are cutting back. The Jackets are 26th out of the 30-team NHL in payroll, with a cap hit of $49.7 Million according to nhlnumbers.com. The AP story mentions how the club has been losing $12 Million per season since joining the league.
The club is at a disadvantage behind the scenes compared to other teams. Their home rink, Nationwide Arena, is privately-owned. The voters in Columbus wanted it that way as they rejected voter proposals for a public-funded arena in 1986 and 1997. The team pays $5 Million to use the facility, and doesn’t have access to parking revenues or money that comes from arena naming rights.
The benefits the team has provided is the arena is an anchor for the downtown Columbus area. Downtown Columbus has enjoyed an increase in property values, shops, bars and restaurants, and has been able to employ thousands of people.
The attempts in this situation by the team include unsuccessfully asking for a tax increase in alcohol and cigarettes in Franklin County. The major opponent of the measure was Anheuser- Busch, which has a brewery in the city. The increase would of raised $65 million to underwrite a county takeover of the arena. Other options include trying to find a second major tenant, such as a basketball team and exploring a public-private ownership deal for the arena.