As we’ve continued documenting the fallout of the Blue Jackets’ announcement of the loss of $80 million over the previous seven years—as well as the death of their proposed “sin tax” amendment—one of the underlying currents has been the prospect of the team having to be sold and subsequently relocated out of Columbus to another market.
One of the markets in question has always been Kansas City, who has built a brand new arena (The Spirit Center) and has openly pined for an NHL franchise. Well, The Dispatch’s Aaron Portzline contacted the Anschutz Entertainment Group, who is the group that owns The Spirit Center, and he relayed an interesting part of the equation I was unaware of.
Talked to the Anschutz Entertainment Group today. That’s the group which owns the Sprint Center in Kansas City … a sparkling, new arena that sits in wait for an NHL franchise. Michael Roth, VP of communications for AEG, said the group has no interest in talking to the Blue Jackets about moving to Kansas City. To be clear, AEG owns the Los Angeles Kings, so they could not buy the Blue Jackets. That’s against NHL rules.
I find that last part very intriguing (emphasis was mine).
Obviously, it’s doubtful that Roth would have said, “Yes, we want to move your team here pronto!” It wouldn’t be prudent PR to do so. But, what I did NOT know is that the group that owns the arena in Kansas City already owns and NHL team, and thus could not actually BUY the Jackets to move them. There’s obviously a few shades of gray, though:
They could, of course, try to persuade an owner to move to KC. A couple of years back, the group offered the Pittsburgh Penguins a rent-free agreement if they moved to Missouri and played in the Sprint Center.
So, since the issue for Columbus is their building lease, it’s not outside the realm of possibility for them to lure the Jackets—either under their current ownership, or another completely different ownership group—to Kansas City with the promise of no rent. But, Roth could have stopped there in his assessment of the CBJ’s situation. He did not:
That’s not happening with the Blue Jackets, either, Roth said. “We would not have any discussions with a team that currently has a lease,” Roth said. “That wouldn’t be right. That hockey club (Columbus) is under a long-term lease. It would not be appropriate for us to talk about or with a club that has a long-term agreement in place.”
In other words, Roth won’t publicly admit to tampering, hehehe. In all seriousness, the more and more prominent players in this “Columbus might move” drama that come out on the record, the more and more it looks like the NHL isn’t going to let Columbus move unless it becomes a necessity of last resort.
And, given that the lease with Nationwide seems to be the straw that stirs all drinks in the discussion (both that it’s the root of the problem, but also something that might keep other groups/arenas/potential owners from “tampering” with the Jackets), and given that it would be staunchly against Nationwide’s financial best interests, if I had to levy a percentage that the Jackets will stay in Columbus long-term (yesterday, I guessed maybe 50/50) based on what I keep reading and hearing, I would say today that it’s closer to 75%.
It just seems that “the usual suspects” that Jackets fans hear about in terms of people who might swoop in and try to move the team have all come forward and are saying that nothing is going to happen on their own fronts. No word if Keyser Soze has contacted the Jackets or the NHL.
Make no mistake: the Jackets are still in a big puddle of financial mess. But, to keep hearing that the people who might want to buy our team have no apparent interest or plans to do so at the present helps to soften the panic, at least in the short-term.