Departure Of AHL Abbotsford Heat Will Cost Local Taxpayers Almost C$13M
The AHL Abbotsford Heat are leaving Fraser Valley, B.C., and the team yesterday revealed that the departure is "going to cost taxpayers" C$12.7M, according to Frank Luba of the Vancouver PROVINCE. The Flames brought their minor league team to a new arena for the '09-10 season "in a 10-year deal in which the city of Abbotsford covered the team's losses." The city yesterday "unveiled a strategy it dubbed 'A New Game' that included renaming the arena the Abbotsford Centre and beginning a search to sell naming rights for the facility." A new deal to operate the facility also has "been worked out with Global Spectrum." While the city will "actively search for a new anchor tenant to replace the Heat, the 7,008-seat Abbotsford Centre will become more of a community asset by increasing the amount of use for minor hockey, figure skating and public skating." Meanwhile, the Flames "would not confirm" the club is moving its AHL team to Glens Falls, N.Y. But Flames President Ken King indicated that the team "would be actively searching for an alternative" (Vancouver PROVINCE, 4/16). The Heat are the western-most AHL franchise and the only team playing in the Pacific time zone (THE DAILY).
SEARCH FOR A REPLACEMENT: In Calgary, Scott Cruickshank notes the Heat this season "drew an average crowd of 3,007." Only the AHL Portland Pirates franchise had a lower mark at 2,260. King said, "I think the American league model is as difficult to make work ... lots of teams have had challenges in lots of different markets." He added, "It's a struggle to find a viable market. The question really becomes: what's it going to cost you to operate your development system? Can you find a place that's a great place to have young guys go and develop?" (CALGARY HERALD, 4/16). Meanwhile, in Vancouver, Elliott Pap notes the Canucks "aren't about to fill the void" in Abbotsford with their AHL franchise. The Canucks "were eyeing Abbotsford a year ago but eventually settled on a six-year agreement" with Utica, N.Y. Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman indicated that "perhaps a Western Hockey League team" could become Abbotsford Centre's new anchor tenant (VANCOUVER SUN, 4/16).