B.C. city bails on minor-league hockey deal after 5 years, $77m in losses

It’s not often that you see a city decide to cut its losses and jettison a deal to bring a pro sports team to town, but that’s just what has happened in the small British Columbia city of Abbotsford, which has terminated its deal with the minor-league Abbotsford Heat hockey franchise after five years and $7.2 million in losses:

The [Calgary] Flames were persuaded to leave town for $5.5-million, as Abbotsford was staring at annual losses of about $2-million, estimated at a total of $11-million, before the deal expired. The hockey team likely will move to New York State. While Abbotsford has cut off potential losses, it is left with a gleaming arena – including 15 luxury boxes – with no primary tenant.

The deal for the Flames’ top minor-league club was supposed to last ten years, but was apparently a disaster for several completely foreseeable reasons: Abbotsford is Vancouver Canucks fan territory, it’s a huge travel distance from the rest of the AHL, etc. Thanks to this terrible planning, plus one of those horrible “Sure, we’ll cover all your team’s losses, why not?” deals that someone should really be staging interventions when elected officials even consider them, the city will now be on the hook for a total of $12.7 million in subsidies and buyout, plus the initial $64 million it paid to build the Abbotsford Centre, but at least maybe now it can book some more concerts that Canucks fans won’t mind going to see.

But I know what you’re thinking: Enough about Abbotsford, what does this say about Chilliwack? Never let it be said I don’t have you covered.

3 comments on “B.C. city bails on minor-league hockey deal after 5 years, $77m in losses

  1. … therefore no city in the world should build one regardless of local conditions. I get you.

  2. Only 77 million dollars and a small town can have its own top level minor league team? Wow! It’s really put Abbortsford on the map. -sarc font-

    At least it’s refreshing to know that smallville pols can be as big as dunderheads as their big city cousins.

  3. I’ve been to Abbotsford several times back in my hockey FO days, and I could see this coming. It’s a nice enough place, but towns in the BC lower mainland are bedroom communities that are little more than extensions of Vancouver where (as Neil mentions) the Canucks rule. It’s sort of like baseball in Florida: You’ll have no problem finding players, but good luck getting people to sit in the stands. Chilliwack will be the next to go for the same reason.