Vegas would be “disaster” for NHL expansion, Seattle not much better, according to Fivethirtyeight’s numbers

Fivethirtyeight has taken a look at the hard numbers behind the possible NHL expansion targets [or at least as hard as you can get from counting up Google searches for “NHL” — see comments], and pretty much concurs with what I said off the top of my head the other day: Quebec could work, as could Toronto (leaving aside the pesky problem of the Maple Leafs wanting that market all for themselves), but Seattle and especially Vegas would be pretty lousy NHL sites:

Teams in markets with fewer than 300,000 hockey fans, however, have tended to lose money, and that’s where the wisdom of adding franchises in Seattle and (especially) Las Vegas gets iffy. We estimated that Seattle contains about 240,000 NHL fans — fewer than that of Phoenix and Florida’s Tampa Bay, home to two franchises that have struggled to turn a profit for many years. And if Seattle is an enigmatic choice by this metric, Las Vegas would be a disaster. According to our estimates, there are only 91,000 hockey fans in the Vegas media market, which is nearly 40 percent fewer than even Nashville, Tennessee, the least-avid current NHL city, has.

Interestingly, Fivethirtyeight estimates that Kingston and Halifax, and maybe even Moncton, Sherbrooke or Sudbury, could viably support an NHL team better than the U.S. cities under consideration — and better even than five current NHL cities, Phoenix, Columbus, Raleigh-Durham, Miami, and Nashville — thanks to the fact that there are actually people who like to watch hockey in Canada. No doubt there are other factors here at work as well — TV networks, in particular, care as much about overall media market size as whether the market contains any actual hockey fans — but it’s still a worthwhile reminder that just because a city has possible arena plans and some name recognition doesn’t mean it’s necessarily a good place to start up a sports franchise.


60 comments on “Vegas would be “disaster” for NHL expansion, Seattle not much better, according to Fivethirtyeight’s numbers

  1. You do know the “hard numbers” that Nate Silver looked at were looking at web searches for “N.H.L.” in the cities? That’s it…but I am sure Rogers and NBC would love to see a Sudbury-Moncton finals match up some year.

  2. Ha, no, I didn’t actually make it down to the umpteenth paragraph of Nate’s original article that was linked by this one. That, um, interesting methodology, I’d agree.

  3. Given FiveThirtyEight’s accuracy record since the site went to ESPN, this is great news for the NHL’s prospects in Las Vegas and Seattle.

  4. While translating the number of Google searches into “X hockey fans” is questionable, it’s not an unreasonable method of gauging relative interest for some back-of-the-envelope analysis.

  5. Keith: You really think it’s a good proxy? Personally, I almost never use Google searches for sports and teams I’m actually a fan of. I know for the most part what sights have decent info and writing and don’t need a search engine to take me to those places.

    If you were to look at my Google history it’d be a record mostly of things I DON’T know about and things I just have cursory/passing interest in. Might be different for other people.

    Also, can I say 538 kinda blows? Or is that a personal attack?

  6. Sites not sights. Not to mention ending two sentences with a preposition. That’s solid work for a Friday morning.

  7. No it is not but how about demographic, TV market, youth hockey, Corporate $. All of those numbers are easier to pull than google searches by geo-metro. What about exposure of Canadian Currency fluctuations? It was less than 15 years ago when the NHL had a Canadian relief fund for Canadian teams not named Maple Leafs and Canadiens. I don’t know if Vegas will work but I imagine the people filling the arenas won’t be the locals.

    I also not sure how some of the population #s are being counted. According to Wikipedia Sudbury has 160K and thunder bay has 100K yet 538 references 538,000 for Sudbry-Thunder Bay. ok…well maybe there is a lot of other towns in there. Then I looked at the distance between Sudbry-Thunder Bay. Looks like only a 12 hour drive.

    I don’t mean to dump on 538 but I hate the ignorance articles like this breed…not just sports either.

  8. My concern is that there’s a confirmation bias, or maybe it’s a selection bias: People in Canada are more likely to Google for “NHL” because they’re already following the NHL, because they’re Canadians, duh. That doesn’t tell you much about whether people in Seattle would Google “NHL” a lot if they actually had a team to follow.

    And I have tons of respect for Nate (we used to work together at Baseball Prospectus) and much of his work in the past, but “kinda blows” is a pretty good summary of 538’s work since moving to ESPN. Though admittedly, it has broken new ground in the field of burrito rankings…

  9. Seattle’s problem isn’t so much that it would not have hockey fans as it is the fact that it may already be an over-saturated market with just NFL, MLB, MLS and WNBA in addition to the NBA’s return being more or less imminent. That’s according to one study I saw anyway.

  10. The problem with Vegas, as pointed out, is that walk up sales from tourists really don’t do much for a team (walk up sales rarely account for more than 10 percent of the total gate). Teams need regular, annual corporate and individual season ticket sales, and its hard to imagine casinos going big on an entertainment event that takes people out of the casino. Vegas at least has a chance to be a decent cable TV market for the fleecing of the non-hockey-watching public.

    Baltimore probably had about 3-5 years where tourism sold a significant percentage of seats at Camden Yards, but this was the same time that Washington became a big-money town and people had corporate money to spend on baseball tickets.

  11. GDub: You have to take in account that Vegas is an entirely different animal. It attracts tourist like no other. Actual cities like NYC attracts normal people working jobs lol Vegas is practically 100% entertainment based so their walk up sales don’t translate to what other cities experience.
    The Coyotes are a dumpster fire partially because they’re hour outside of Phoenix = no foot traffic (atop of lack of interest.)

    I know if i were in Vegas I would wake up at an unacceptable time if I were in any another city, and would totally walk to a game – just because it’s something to do. For instance, I don’t like ferris wheels, but I’ll go to the high roller in Vegas because it’s something to do & that’s all anyone is there for. It’s simple, Vegas is a crazy place, but crazy like a fox. Vegas is building that massive arena on the strip behind New York New York because they get a lot of events as is, so adding a NHL or NBA team is ‘as easy as getting a sports team there.’ Seattle is the opposite, they won’t build until someone commits for an NBA team. It’s understandable that Seattle wants to avoid Kansas City’s situation, but Seattle is without a doubt a viable option for both NHL & NBA, so they really shouldn’t be so hesitant because for Seattle ‘if they built it – they WILL come.’

  12. It wouldn’t be a disaster for the NHL to put an expansion team in Vegas.

    The disaster would be EXPANDING the NHL in the first place!

    (but if I were getting a taste of that $1.4 Billion then I would be for it too)

    However if they do expand, which sounds likely; if 10 years in Vegas turns out to be the dud pessimists want to believe it could be then they move the team to Milwaukee, Saskatoon, or some other city in Canada that would be guaranteed to sell out every game.

    So worst case scenario, the team leaves Vegas and get this: THE ARENA STILL HAS EVENTS BOOKED. How many cities/arena could actually get away with that?

    I see Vegas as a solid option with little downside that won’t saddle the city like it has for Phoenix, Seattle is there own biggest enemy, and Expansion is the biggest problem facing the NHL, but that’s just my opinion.

  13. I don’t dispute that some people might go to a hockey game in Las Vegas (though of all the things to do there, a hockey game would probably be most peoples’ last option).

    What I would say is that the success or failure of major league teams nowadays is determined by their success or failure in selling season tickets and gaining good TV deals. Marketing individual ticket sales is expensive and uncertain, and in a city like Vegas where there’s a ton of entertainment competition, probably even more difficult.

  14. GDub: True, but think about what time games start… Vegas hours are 8pm – 5am. That’s why if I were there, waking up at a reprehensible 3:30 in the afternoon then going to a game really doesn’t cut into the time where things pick up there.

    Everything there is about being convenient. No one goes to Vegas to drive heavy construction equipment lol but somehow they hear its right next to the strip & people show up.

    There’s just more people per capita that wake up in a hotel room with the priority #1 being “what do you want to do?”

    Timing plays a huge part. In OKC your night would revolve around going to a Thunder game, but in Vegas you still feel like your waking up… Not much get compare with that scenario. Vegas has potential upside, minimum downside, and I think the NHL sees that (even if the owners are only focused on that $1.4 Billion.)

    It’ll be a social experiment because I’ve certainly never seen it before. I’m not rooting against them either. Despite mediocre numbers in Dallas – I’m kind of surprised NHL hasn’t looked at Houston, but that’s another story…

  15. 538 is such an obnoxious site, it isn’t funny. Las Vegas, of course, is a no-brainer for many factors. It’s a terrible place for an NHL team. Moscow or Scandinavia would probably be far more sensible, to be honest. As to their figures and conclusion about Seattle, I just don’t buy it. It sounds bogus. Haven’t gone through the article or that blurb up there, but I don’t think they’ve got the whole story yet, considering how well the Canucks do, for instance. Wouldn’t there be a lot of hockey fans who move to Seattle to find work from other places too? What a joke.

  16. @Ben Miller, 538 is run by ESPN? That explains a lot. I hate their magazine. Half the time I read it, I don’t even understand the stats they are throwing at me. I see all sorts of confounding stat acronyms that have no reference or legend for them. Their articles are full of the jargon. It’s like, what the hell are you talking about?? I mean, this is not some journal for advanced sports statisticians, it’s a mass market sports magazine!

  17. Seattle would be a decent place for an expansion team. There is not a winter professional sport currently, so it would be filling a void in the sports calendars for fans. There is still a ton of bitter feelings towards the NBA, so a non-NBA team may generate more interest than an NBA team. And the junior league teams (one just south and one just north of Seattle) draw pretty well for their venues.

    Vegas, though, is an interesting beast. It may be the only case where out of town fans outnumber in town fans in total attendance. I could see fans making the case to travel to Vegas to see their team play and, perhaps, throw some more money in a slot machine. If the casinos got into the act and started offering package deals for people to stay and see a game (only if you stay 2 or more nights, mind you…), it could take off. I would almost say it would be better for the NHL to use Vegas like an exhibition city wherein each team has to play a game there. That way, the casinos would soak in even more tourist dollars and the NHL gets lots of kick backs.

  18. Bertortodd, However, when you see sports commissioners quaking in their boots about expanding to Vegas, you know there are problems. Imagine these athletes under pressure everyday to fix games. Not good at all.

  19. Out of town fans do not buy season tickets. And selling corporate seats to clients who do not have customers nearby to wine and dine might be difficult also.

    Everything said about Vegas as a destination city is true, but of it’s 2.2m people 1/3rd (roughly) are sleeping at any given hour of the day. Add to that all the other attractions that Vegas offers, and the NHL would be hard pressed to attract an audience there. I don’t know about 90,000 hockey fans, but I do think Vegas would just be another Glendale fiasco (at least for the owners).

    If you can get a casino owner or two involved, then maybe it can work. If you are competing with them? Forget it.

    Add to that Vegas has the same problem that Seattle has: no suitable building. Lots of cities have plans… only a couple are actually building right now.

    The NHL would love Seattle and Vegas for both image and geographic reasons. Trouble is, you can’t play in the parking lot of Caesar’s Palace anymore (not that you ever really could, as the NHL demonstrated).

    Classic Ham n Eggs marketing.

    The only “unencumbered” market available for the NHL at present is Quebec. They are working on building an arena rather than just talking about it. Everything else, including Toronto, has major obstacles.

    Seattle’s could go away if Vic Coleman offered to step in to Chris Hansen’s arena deal. Don’t count on that happening… that was a decent deal for the city and we all know the NHL demands non-hockey fans pay for it’s products.

  20. John Bladen: Sure, season tickets sales are important & that wouldn’t be one of Vegas’ strengths, but of all the people I personally know with NHL season tickets barely make it to half the games. So one angle is would you rather have high season ticket sales with below average turnout or just fill up the arena by all means necessary because Vegas may not have a choice but I think they could make the latter work.

    I was trying tot point out that theres a HUGE difference between Phoenix & Vegas: Phoenix dug their own grave with their arena. It will have no purpose once they inevitably leave Arizona. On the other hand, it wouldn’t be that burdensome on the NHL, the owners, or the city if they did land in Vegas because arena will be plenty of events either way, so in a worst case scenario if they did leave Vegas then the team would find a place up north where the team and the league both win & Vegas is still has things going on = that’s the complete opposite of the status quo in Phoenix… It fully meant that it was a dumpster fire.

    Also, MGM (a casino) is building the arena right now so they have enough support from MGM allies & affiliates over there.

    The difference between Seattle & Vegas is: Seattle is obviously the most desirable city for NBA & NHL but they want the team before the arena even though Key Arena was big part of the reason they lost the Sonics. And Vegas is saying the hell with it, they’ll build first and the team(s) will follow and from what I’ve seen its going to be a pretty damn good venue so they probably will. It feels like the only thing standing in Seattle’s way is Seattle, but I’m still pullin for them!

  21. And Trey, if you think a team will come to Vegas because of a fancy arena, you should look at Kansas City’s Sprint Center fiasco sometime. Seattle’s taxpayers don’t want to be suckered, so don’t say Seattle is to blame just because the people don’t want to be pawns for the rich.

    Thanks.

  22. Pacific Northwest seems like a inteligent strategic move for the NHL unlike, I don’t know, the south! Houston would be iffy since from personal experience the average sport fan there mocks hockey and the support they gave the Aeros was terrible. A big league team might be different and the Rockets owner has mentioned being involved in the past.

  23. Wow, lots of violations of the “no personal attacks” rule tonight!

    I’m going to leave the posts up because the thread would make no sense without them [EDIT: not anymore, they’re gone now], but suffice to say that “Are you trolling?” “typical internet antics,” “grow up,” “Hashtag delusional,” and “Thanks for the irrational thoughts” all qualify as attacking the person posting, not the content of their posts, and so are out of bounds. Everyone play nice, or take it outside.

  24. I agree with Neil that the personal attacks need to stop. They really bring down the site. You can disagree with someone without harsh comments.

    I think the thing that’s missing from the Vegas discussion is the people go to games to root for THEIR team, not for some new experience. I don’t see large numbers of tourists going to games. They’re either from a city that doesn’t have an NHL team and likely don’t care about the game, or they’re from a city where they can watch a game at home. While I love my own NHL team, it wouldn’t be much of a thrill to see a game in Vegas. I’d focus on all of the things in Vegas that I can’t do at home.

  25. John Bladen: Vegas doesn’t currently have a suitable building but it’s under construction and would be ready in time for the 2016-2017 NHL/NBA season. That’s one of the only reasons that they get run plus the fact that they would be in a market with no other professional teams.

    I would still like to see Portland get a team but Paul Allen doesn’t want to pay $350 million for an expansion team. He wants to get a bargain deal on some distressed team that’s losing money.

  26. Trey, seriously, it’s not like this concern hasn’t been documented. Google is your friend, look it up. Thanks.

  27. TB: Portland has been mentioned as a potential NHL location for longer than Seattle has. Is there any evidence that Allen actually wants a team? Going back 20yrs+, it very much seemed that the NHL was trying to woo him to become an owner but that he wasn’t (and perhaps still isn’t) at all interested.

  28. Vinnie: Very much true. The concept of “fan tourism” was put up as a supporting reason for franchises in Tampa, Florida and Phoenix. All are Snowbird vacation destinations… as is Vegas.

    It’s true some did go, and some still do (I have friends in Calgary who have received numerous cold calls from the Coyotes hoping that they might be flying down and be willing to take in a game… seriously… this happens). But it’s clearly not enough in any of those markets. Fla and Phx moving out of the metro areas didn’t help either, but it wasn’t anything like success before they moved (just less bad).

    The scary thing for these franchises is that they are failing so badly even WITH the fan tourists… imagine how bad it would be if they had to live on the local support…

  29. Roger, after I pointed out that your opinion is baseless & Neil deMause kindly deescalated the whole thing… you’re still adding nothing of value & still throwing shots?? lol

    John Bladen, Portland has been suggested in the past & I think PDX would be a better fit than Houston, which I briefly mentioned above only because its the 4th largest city and growing like crazy, but the “official” statement that spawned this thread specifically listed 4 cities so that’s why PDX wasn’t brought up. I agree with you, if Toronto doesn’t get a second team because it they can’t work it out with the Maple Leafs territory then I believe Portland would probably be the next best option. Houston only looks good on paper.

    John Bladen & Vinnie: Important to note that there’s a massive difference between Tampa/Phoenix tourism & Vegas tourism… Vegas’ tourism isn’t nearly as seasonal due to conventions and other year round events, and Tampa/Phoenix get more senior citizens and retirees during winter months that are less likely to attend events outside of bingo. I wouldn’t mind seeing the NHL abandon Florida & Arizona for the reasons John mentioned, but I’d still wouldn’t count Vegas out since their entire city is one large entertainment industry. Plus, there’s always a some Canadian city to save the day if needed.

  30. If there’s something to be learned from the Sprint Center, it’s that pro sports teams aren’t that profitable compared to concerts, since teams don’t like to pay rent. The MGM/AEG arena in Vegas will doubtless draw plenty of musical acts — that’s one thing the flood of tourists is good for — but as in K.C., it’s hard to picture them wanting to carve out dates for a hockey team that would only earn them a fraction as much per night.

    (And this has nothing to do with hockey ticket prices or fan bases, either. It’s that no NHL owner is going to want to sign a lease that requires actually handing over revenues to the arena operator.)

  31. Neil: Exactly! the AEG/MGM arena doesn’t need a team to survive which is extraordinary luxury to have if you’re the city of Las Vegas. Arena’s don’t guarantee anything to anyone.

    If that AEG/MGM arena were being built in Montana — that wouldn’t warrant a sports team because the location isn’t practical, so KC built that arena on the hopes of getting an NBA franchise but forgot they’re in Fly-Over-Country. For instance; the SEC dominates college football, yet has few NFL teams. Kansas is a collegiate powerhouse in basketball, but isn’t an attractive market enough for an NBA franchise because there’s nothing special that sets it apart from Portland, Milwaukee, Houston, or Saskatoon. (Places that could snag the 4th expansion spot or be places the Arizona Coyotes/ Florida Panther relocate too.)

    I guess where I’m getting at is the location is equally if not more important than having an existing arena, regardless if its as new as Sprint Center because Seattle has an arena, but obviously isn’t enough to entice anyone into committing. That’s just my take.

    Speaking of owners not wanting to share revenue; do you think Steve Ballmer is going to break away from the Staples Center & share a new arena with the Anaheim Ducks? Its hard to imagine what “money is no object” really feels like, but Ballmer could copy-and-paste the AEG/MGM arena & it would be the equivalent of you or I buying a car….. Must be nice. *Sigh*

  32. Hey, and you know what’s a much smaller market than Kansas City? Las Vegas.

    http://www.nielsen.com/content/dam/corporate/us/en/docs/solutions/measurement/television/2013-2014-DMA-Ranks.pdf

  33. Okay, that’s a plus. But you could make the same argument for placing NHL teams in Austin, Grand Rapids, or West Palm Beach, all of which are bigger than Las Vegas. Or even more realistically, Hartford, which is bigger even than Kansas City.

  34. @Trey Bugle

    If you have any interest in seeing the Clippers in Anaheim, check out my site. http://clipperstoanaheim.com/

    It’s a huge long shot but we’re not going to give up. We’re currently gathering the people on our facebook likes list to send periodic emails to Ballmer. Go to the contact link at the top if you’re interested.

    If that doesn’t work, I am hoping that either he or the Lakers break off from Staples and privately finance a basketball centric arena. A true cross town rivalry would be cool.

  35. What makes the most sense if anyone really believes Vegas is in the mix is expantion to Seattle and QC and a relocation of Florida to Vegas. Don’t see the NHL talking the Leafs and Sabres into another team in the GTA area.

  36. Neil: Or a hockey team that KC would have to pay to play in the building the taxpayers built…

    In less than stellar markets (outside the top 10-12, lets say), NHL clubs not only don’t provide much in the way of cash toward the arena debt, they often need full control of the arena, and all the revenue from the non-hockey events, to make a go of it on the hockey side.

    Another reason why there won’t be a second team in the ACC for sure… they’d have to displace 50 other events that actually bring in cash for the building owner (MLSe). In the unlikely event there is a second team in the GTA, it won’t play at the ACC.

  37. Trey: If you are talking about hockey specifically, it is actually a plus that tourism might be more seasonal (IE: snowbirds), given that the vast majority of the season is played when it’s cold up north.

    That said, I think you’ll find there are some other meagre attractions in the Tampa/STP/Orlando corridor… and that people go to Disneyworld pretty much year round.

    In Phx/Glendale’s case, again, it’s a plus for the hockey team that fans tend to want to go there between November and March…. 80% +of the tourist spending should be done while the season is “on” (I’m guessing a little… do people leave NY or Chicago in June to head out to Phx and have the paint baked right off their Mercedes?)

  38. Neil: That’s true, except I wan’t referring to KC’s market size — I was trying to saying it’s a ‘sleepy’ market for lack-of-a-better-term. I’ve been to Kansas twice and it’s as flat as they say & there really is no place like home. (My home, not Dorthy’s) If they were going by market size then Houston is the biggest missing puzzle piece. By those numbers Houston has nearly 2.5 times the *viewers.

    *Viewers meaning they own a TV/cable subscription doesn’t translate into watching hockey. It makes me wonder if those numbers are relevant to the NHL. I think its fair to say out of the 4 major sports that the those tv numbers have ‘the least amount of influence’ with the NHL because its a regional sport like baseball & ESPN stopped airing hockey a long time ago. I mean, Houston’s probably not going to end up with an NHL team – they weren’t even mentioned, and the Dallas/Ft Worth metro is enormous (I had no idea they had a larger tv market than Houston until now) yet they’re always below average every year in attendance. It makes me wonder how much those number really matter for the NHL.

    Saskatoon is a smaller market and it’s in Saskatchewan (the only providence without an NHL team) yet they would easily sellout a 19,000 seat arena every single game. Just like Calgary, Winnipeg, and Edmonton 100% attendance because it’s Canada. I think NHL deviates from the NBA & NFL in that matter. I don’t if you agree, what’s your take?

  39. Trueblood: I’ll give it a look. I’m not sure about what can be done about it… I don’t know the term of the Clippers lease with the Staple Center, but I imagine it’ll be awhile. I think it’s likely that he will eventually since he’s not getting a taste of that suite money. I was curious about how Neil felt about an owner actually doing what Neil’s advocated for years…

    (Also I think there’s a 0% chance the Lakers leave the Staples Center, but maybe I’m missing something.)

    I only brought up the potential Anaheim arena because he has so much money it would be a slap in the face to ask for public money, and it would be refreshing to see one of these billionaires pay for the whole project themselves. Plus, its be nice to see that money back in circulation instead of collecting dust (and interest) like most billionaires.

    It’ll cool to see what tech devices he’d scatter everywhere given his history with Microsoft…

  40. John Bladen: Yeah, this thread is about NHL expansion.
    Maybe that is a plus, but it doubt it would outweigh Vegas in that aspect. Vegas attracts a younger & more active crowd. For instance, if I drive to Atlanta: I’m bringing a couple hundred dollars, but if I’m flying to Vegas then I’m bring a couple grand. Vegas has that effect on a lot of people that go there.

    Sure every city has ‘meagre’ entertainment, but Vegas is on par with NYC and LA in regards to nightlife/stuff to do (sometimes exceeds them too). If I’m in Vegas I’m walking out of a strip club 5am going to the casino before calling it a day. If I’m in Tampa, the highlight of my day involves seeing a movie at 5:30pm and a chain restaurant dinner lol

    You’re right that Disneyworld is an attraction, but if I’m in miami driving 3.5 hours north to get there would be thet same driving 3.5 hours west from Vegas to LA. And no one drives to LA on whim. But I understand where you’re coming from because I once flew to Detroit just so I could drive to Cedar Point (Amusement park that has better rollercoasters than Disney IMO) and that was a 2 hour drive similar to what you’re talking about.

    In regards to Phoenix, I don’t when northerns migrate there, but they’ve been doing that for awhile now & the Coyotes have been bottom 2 in NHL attendance for like 7 years straight. They’ve never had good ticket sales even when they were a playoff team, so maybe its all the 65+ bingo crowd going down there because they haven’t been showing up & that’s not a new trend, so I don’t see it as a plus. I’ve been to Phoenix one time. I stayed for a week and it was miserable! I stepped out of my hotel room at 6:30 & it was 102 before the sun was out. It was 118 around 3pm. This was during July. NEVER AGAIN. I know firsthand why people opt to stay inside, even if the ice is cold…

  41. On the NHL not going by sheer market size: Well, sure, duh — despite Bettman’s best attempts, hockey remains a sport mostly popular in or near Canada. But that doesn’t help Vegas’s candidacy any — yes, some Canadian tourists will go there, but you can’t build a fan base on out-of-towners.

    On Ballmer building his own arena, fine by me, but I don’t see where it would make financial sense for him to do so. He just plunked down $2 billion for the team itself — even if he has another billion to burn, why spend it on an arena? It’s not like the Warriors moving to SF, where he’d suddenly be big dog in the local arena market.

  42. Trey: Canada has 10 provinces (not providences), 5 of them do not have NHL teams (SASK, NFLD/LAB, NB, NS, and PEI). But you are right, a team would fare well in Saskatoon, probably as well as the WPG Jets.

    I don’t think Vegas will work myself. There are too many entertainment options there, many of which are unique to the city. A sports team would seem rather boring in comparison to residents and tourists I imagine. They can watch sports anywhere! Put another way, it’s like going to Paris and eating McDonald’s.

  43. Neil

    Maybe, maybe not. Keep in mind that when you’re talking about NY, LA and SF, naming rights still has big time potential regardless of whether or not you’re the big dog.

    There is also the issue of how bad his lease deal is. He gets ZERO in suite revenue. That’s bad enough in most place but horrible at Staples Center where you have 3 tiers of suites that push the fans higher than at any other arena in the country. You can only charge so much when every seat up there is a bad one. Throw in the fact that the lower bowl is double the size of the upper bowl and you have really bad sightlines up there. That leaves Ballmer charging low ticket prices and getting nothing for the seats that push people up there in the first place.

    If he were to build his own arena, he would have revenue access to roughly 80 to 100 suites, charge more for upper level seating and if Farmer’s Field is any indication, naming rights still has value in LA. If he can just get anywhere from a 3rd to half of what they are offering, then I can see this penciling out for him.

    From my perspective, the concept of a new arena comes from the $1 billion price tag that AEG is trying to get him to pay plus $500 million for the Kings when he has no interest in hockey. Why pay $1.5 billion when you can do it from scratch for a 3rd that?

    Yes, Anaheim would seem to make the most sense as it’s already built and I bet he could get a much better deal than Staples plus be in the same tv market but I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s never going to happen. Whether it be Arte Moreno, Georgia Frontiere or whoever, Orange County seems to have become toxic to owners. You would think that being in the wealthiest county in America as well as the 2nd largest tv market in America would be a good thing. I guess not.

  44. I see your point, but even dedicating 100% of naming rights and suite revenue isn’t going to get you close to $1 billion. The only way it would make sense would be if he could dominate the concert market as well, as the Warriors expect to, and that seems unlikely with the competition from Staples.

    Keep in mind that the Barclays Center has done extremely well in terms of booking events, is in a similar 1A market to Orange County, and got a pile of subsidies in the form of cheap land and tax breaks, and is still having trouble turning a profit. New sports venues are crazy expensive.

  45. Neil

    Assuming you’re talking about a $1 billion price tag then yeah, it doesn’t pencil out but I don’t think it would have to be that high. When teams like the Nets and Warriors throw around the billion number, they’re talking about the overall headache involved with the project as opposed to just construction of the arena. As you know as well an anyone, the Nets had to deal with the Goldstein battle, moving the tracks, buying land and so on and so forth. The Orlando arena is twice as impressive and costed less than half what Barclays costed. My thinking is that there are plenty of places in LA that are in cost effective areas and are close to all the new public transportation options that are sprouting up around LA that could get Ballmer closer to a Sacramento/Orlando price than what you had in Brooklyn.

    Of course, Brooklyn had the Atlantic Yards development that accounted for the incentive in the project in the first place. Ratner didn’t even know how many players were on the court for a basketball game. But I would think that if Ballmer had any interest in development, he could make it happen as well. Like the Warriors and Nets, that seems to be what makes or breaks these deals. Instead of paying rent to the Devils (Nets in Newark), city of Oakland (Warriors at Oracle) or the Giants (original media speculation about a Warrior presence in SF), these guys have chosen to go on their own. When you look at the below average leases that AEG offers, you would think that this would appeal to Ballmer.

  46. The Barclays Center was coming in around $1 billion *without* land costs before it was “value-engineered.” (Moving the tracks was covered by the state.) I don’t doubt that you could build something for less, but it wouldn’t have room for hockey and all the other bells and whistles that you’d want to compete with Staples. And even for $800 million, say, I’m not convinced it would pay off.

    Atlantic Yards being Ratner’s incentive is an interesting notion, since now Atlantic Yards looks like it will remain largely unbuilt for the foreseeable future. I’ve heard theories both that Ratner dangled basketball as a way of getting the land for housing development, and that he dangled housing as a way of getting a basketball arena. My pet theory is that he dangled both as a way of getting more foot traffic for his two terrible malls across the street, but however you want to slice it, it hasn’t been a terrific investment…

  47. Yeah, the Atlantic Yards project became way too expensive for someone like Ratner. Take Prokhorov out of the equation and there’s no doubt that AY never gets off the ground.

    Goldstein almost pulled it off. I’m pretty sure that the California law requiring anti stadium lawsuits to be filed within 3 months of the end of the EIR process is a result of Ratner’s battle with DG. Otherwise, the anti ESC contingent in Sacramento would just run out the clock until the NBA has the right to buy back the team. This is something that Ballmer wouldn’t have to deal with that gives him an advantage over Ratner. Remember back when the original Gehry model was going to go for $500 million and be a lot nicer than what Barclays turned out to be?

    Not only that but at one time, Barclays was going to give $400 million over 20 years as opposed to the $200 that they are winding up paying due to the delays and eventual opt out that Barclays had. This is another advantage that Ballmer would have.

    I guess a lot of it comes from the fan in me as well. Sharing an arena or stadium is just awkward in a lot of ways. You’re a Mets fan. Don’t you think it’s better going to a stadium that they don’t share with the Yankees as opposed to walking in to a stadium and seeing a place 80% dedicated to the cross town rivals. It would sure be a lot cheaper to build one billion stadium as opposed to 2 but both organizations feel there is something special about being in your own building. With MLB making a point to not schedule 2 teams in the same market on the same day or homestand, it would be a lot easier to schedule than what Staples is faced with regarding all the events before you even get to the sports teams.

    Same with Chicago. The Cubs keep talking about renovating or replacing Wrigley. If sharing a stadium was such a good thing, you would think that they could just pay rent at the White Sox crib.

    Or the Giants could just give up their territorial rights and charge rent to the A’s who would then save on building a new stadium. If I’m Ballmer, I’m getting as far from the stench of Donald Sterling as possible. Had Sterling adhered to the wishes of the league, they’d still be in San Diego or at worst, they would’ve moved to Anaheim when the Honda Center was built and we’re under the assumption that San Diego wouldn’t have built a new arena.

  48. If the NHL was looking at trying to score some expansion fees while A.) protecting the league’s long term economic interests; and B.) doing what is politically most feasible within the viable relocation candidates, they would put franchises in Quebec, Portland, and Seattle… two by expansion, and one by relocation (via the weakest of the southern teams).

    Naturally, this won’t happen.

  49. @Greg

    Agreed. I really hope that the notion of expanding to 34 is just a rumor. The most financially unstable of the 4 major sports shouldn’t have the most amount of teams. Having 34 teams while the much more popular NFL only has 32 would just be wrong.

  50. Neil: I think everyone would agree that the NHL in Canada is a sure bet, but its worth noting that every team in California is doing great & Southern California is just as much of a dessert as Phoenix or Vegas.

    I don’t doubt Ballmer is a great businessman, but he over paid for the Clippers because he wasn’t overly concern with the value of selling the team later on & I doubt he’ll ‘look at the price tag’ when it comes to a new arena. I can’t fathom what having $20 billion in the bank actually feels like, but I imagine its like; “I want an NBA team – I’ll buy that one. I want a new arena – make it happen, no questions asked.” Even if all the costs somehow managed to run upwards of $2 billion like it did when he bid on the team — he would still have of more than 75% of his wealth. All I’m saying is money won’t be a deal break for Ballmer like it is for everyone else, but I could be naive to think he’ll pay for it all himself. If Balmer tries to go the public route then I’ll be disgusted.

  51. Overpaying for a team makes a kind of sense if you have the money, because owning a team is fun.

    Overpaying for an arena doesn’t, because the whole point of having your own arena would be to make money off it. Unless Ballmer would just want to be able to stand in the middle of his home arena and say MINE MINE ALL MIIIIIIIIIINE! In which case I guess more power to him, but he might get more enjoyment out of buying a few dozen yachts or ten MLS teams.

  52. Yeah, that’s why many have always supported a move to Anaheim. It’s already built. Maybe try and get a deal in buying it from the city of Anaheim or getting a lease from the Ducks. It’s just that the building is getting old and needs some upgrades. They have the worst scoreboard in the NHL and have no escalators. I don’t know if the NBA cares about scoreboards since it doesn’t create revenue but escalators seem to be the norm in all new NBA cribs. Not sure if they would overlook that or not.

  53. @Trey Bugle, Ohhhh, what’s this Trey Bugle? http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/28/sports/more-states-look-to-get-in-the-sports-betting-game.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0 . Well, I guess it is a problem, after all?!!! Yes, you’re right, a player can get into trouble with bookies and be pressured to fix games anywhere, but you need to think about the difference between Las Vegas and everywhere else in the country. The city is basically run by casinos. Anyone that knows pro sports knows Las Vegas is just not a good place for professional athletes. For an average person, Las Vegas just isn’t a good place to raise a family. There are issues with the adult entertainment industry, the education system and the gambling. There are slot machines everywhere. It’s not going to be hard for any family member to get caught up in gambling. It’s not a stable place for anyone to live. I’ve known people that had to leave Las Vegas because they couldn’t control their gambling. The NBA and the gaming commission came together to ban betting on the All Star game when it played in 2007. David Stern told Oscar Goodman in 1999 that it was a flat-out no to ever bringing a team to Vegas. Vegas is to the NBA and NHL what Los Angeles and London are to the NFL, an unrealistic location that will never be considered for expansion by those leagues. I’ve also been to Las Vegas. They can’t support a team there. Most people with money work during the night. That’s the nature of the place.

    Once again, you’re right that gambling on sports can be done anywhere. However, the risks of going to Las Vegas have been well-documented by several commissioners, BUT I will confess again, some have changed their opinions about expanding to the city. I’m not sure that I believe them, because many are familiar with the tactic of using another city as leverage to get new publicly financed stadiums, like what Oakland is trying to do with San Antonio. Even the NHL came out and denied that recent revelation that they were considering Vegas. I believe you were going off the word of the Province reporter, Gallardo, that initially reported concerns about sports gambling have eased in recent years in the original article, but I fail to see the evidence that led him to this arbitrary conclusion. Sports betting is still very much a serious concern, one of many that will keep any team from moving to Vegas.

  54. Roger C: Ohhhh, what’s this???? lol Well good morning to you. You did a bit of back tracking. Allow me to clarify.

    Originally, you said; “If there’s a professional team in Vegas – players/coaches/refs WILL fix games.” Now you’re saying professional leagues don’t approve of other states legalizing sports betting. Those are 2 very different stances. Obviously professional sports would like to contained this ‘controlled wildfire’ we call sports betting in Nevada. Even if there are offshore betting sites that bend the rules akin to off shore bank accounts that avoid American taxes, but I’ll respond to the things you said.

    You said: “a player can get into trouble with bookies,” Are you inferring that there are players currently betting on sports? (…like outside of Nevada since there aren’t any pro teams currently there) because Vice wrote a great article that might support what you’re saying: (http://www.vice.com/read/how-to-get-into-sketchy-sports-betting-825) Essentially, if you were to bet on sports through a domestic site (not offshore) in a state not named Nevada, it would force you to bet on credit, so when you lose – you now have debt collectors. That entire scenario is eliminated in Nevada because Casino pays out people’s winnings. No dark alleys required. I don’t know if it goes supports or goes against what you said, but the entire sports betting world outside of Nevada is sketchy solely because its illegal & people don’t have a secure casino near them… because its illegal. Also that article you reference from well over a year ago, New Jersey didn’t approve sports betting & long story short Atlantic City closed 2 casinos and lost 5,000 jobs in the last 5 days. If I were to speculate: Sports betting could have seriously helped prevent that.

    You said: “you need to think about the difference between Las Vegas and everywhere else in the country” which I’ve made that distinction multiple times lol the entire city is one big entertainment/hospitality industry. This is the fourth time I’ve said that on this thread because Vegas is a different animal that plays by different rules.

    You said: “Las Vegas just isn’t a good place to raise a family” Albeit, I agree with you and would personally never want to raise a family there. That’s why people say, “Vegas is the best place to visit, but you would never want to live there.” Except, Oakland is a rough place to raise a family too. In Detroit, if your street light goes out – you have to replace it yourself, the city’s going through bankruptcy today, and to top that off the city might have to turn off the water! Think about that before you cast Vegas as the villain in this story. Rhetorical question: Would you advocate Detroit losing their teams? or would you say they “they don’t deserve them” if they were a vacant sports city? (I’m not saying that you would advocate that, and Detroit won’t not lose their teams because it would decimate their economy – just trying to gain some perspective.)

    You said there are issues with “the education system” which applies virtually every city, and of course Vegas is no exception. Philadelphia closed 24 schools in the past year because ‘they could afford to’ yet the city just started construction on a $400 million prison, which is pretty much the mentality of this site = Mis-used & abused public money. Would that fit in your narrative? As for the “Adult industry,” Silicon Valley shoots hundreds of adult films everyday & life seems to be alright there.

    You said: “It’s not going to be hard for any family member to get caught up in gambling” I’m not sure what predisposition you think everyone has, or if you think gambling is frequent act amongst pros, but I don’t think professionals athletes gamble any where near as frequent as you think. I mean, if I move to Huntington Beach, Ca, it DOESN’T mean I’m going to learn to surf…. It doesn’t mean I’ll ever go to the beach. You assume far to much!

    You said: “I’ve known people that had to leave Las Vegas because they couldn’t control their gambling” I hope you weren’t expecting me to say nobody battles gambling addiction… Of course those kind people try their luck in Vegas & get knocked on their ass, I’m sorry it happened to your friend, but back to my example, ‘Guy moves to Huntington Beach, surfs everyday like a beach bum addict, then dies from a shark attack.’ Moral of the story; some people that surf choose to do it everyday & might eventually get mauled by a shark. People that gamble non-stop get devastating results. People that gamble conservatively or only surf occasionally are generally much safer.

    You said: “The NBA and the gaming commission came together to ban betting on the All Star game when it played in 2007″ so people in Vegas had to resort to gambling at bars like 99% Americans are subjected to like the article I posted. Plus, the winnings weren’t taxed. Nothing new. I’m sure it resulted in a few extra fights from unpaid bets/people trying to leave early to avoid paying up.

    You said: “David Stern told Oscar Goodman in 1999…” In 1999 I’m sure Bud Selig said he would rather die before using instant replay. C’mon. So much has changed.

    You said: “Vegas is to the NBA and NHL what Los Angeles and London are to the NFL, an unrealistic location.” Ironically, LA will have 1 or 2 franchises within the next 10 years. It’ll probably be the Rams & the Raiders returning to LA. However, we see eye-to-eye on how silly London is though. I thought the Mexico City rumors were hilarious, but was concerned by how serious people were about London.

    You said: “I’ve also been to Las Vegas. They can’t support a team there. Most people with money work during the night. That’s the nature of the place.” I’ve mentioned the time schedule several times. Most of Vegas is 24/7 but activities range from 8pm-5am the polar opposite of America’s typical 9am-5pm. The NHL makes more sense then MLS, which Vegas is some reason going after. Soccer is outdoor and plays throughout the summer & people in general make an effort to avoid being outdoor during the daytime when its summer in Vegas. The NHL wouldn’t interfere with the late night itineraries people have. That’s the true nature of Vegas.

    Thank you for meeting me half way in regards to ‘the threat of fixing games that already exists from anywhere a person has internet access/cell reception – that’s significant progress! Now the second half of what I’ve been trying to tell you is simply being in Vegas doesn’t increase the chance of sports betting since it already exists everywhere. For instance, If I lived in Boston and never smoked crack – I’m sure there’s plenty of crack in Boston, so if I visit Vegas where I assume has easier access & more of every drug – I don’t do just start smoking crack on a whim. If there were ANYONE in professional sports that’s ever going to cheat, they would already be doing it! and honestly if someone were and their team was playing in Vegas you would think that person would be on their best behavior considering more people would be on the look out for any suspicious behavior.

    Overall I would say there’s been a decent effort in recent years of coming down hard on cheating. Tim Donaghy ousted. Lance Armstrong ousted. MLB toughens drug policies. NFL will soon test for HGH. Pete Rose still blackballed. In regards of gambling, I think less players & personnel cheat now partly due to how hard leagues are coming down on people for cheating. They’re finally coming around on HGH because it’s so prevalent, but there’s a reason we see way more steroid use & really see athletes gambling. PED’s are viewed as ‘everyone does it’ and ‘gambling’ is viewed as a death sentence. They should be one & the same and hopefully that’s the destination, but I’m more of an optimist.

    Good Day :-)

  55. “… or ten MLS teams…”

    I think I know a commissioner who’d be happy to sell him that… or more.

    As for the NHL in Canada being a slam dunk everywhere, it isn’t. Lots of people talking about Saskatoon being a no brainer… I keep wondering if any have ever visited the Bridge City. Saskatoon has 230,000 residents (including the immediate surrounding area). If you include Regina (2.5 hrs away and no, the road isn’t as good as you might think in winter), you are barely up to 450k.

    If the NHL ever agreed to put a franchise in Saskatoon (as it refused to do in 1981, when the Blues were for sale to anyone who wanted them), it would be great for 2-3 years. Then the reality of the cost of NHL hockey to the fan would set in, and the slow decline to relocation would begin. It’s just not a big enough market. Neither is Moncton, Halifax, Sudbury, Thunder Bay, or most of the other markets this deeply flawed “study” suggested. That doesn’t make Carolina or Florida any more viable (there are probably fewer bona fide NHL fans in those locations), but population base does have it’s merits. A Canadian market of 500,000 people does not equal a fan base of 500,000. It just doesn’t…

  56. 60 + comments on an NHL article!

    FoS readers better be careful, if we keep showing such interest in a niche sport Bettman will try to sell Neil an expansion franchise… or maybe buy the site outright and fold it into NHL.com…

  57. FYI, just removed some of the 60+ posts that violated the no-personal-attacks rule. Making sense be damned, I don’t want them hanging around and making people think that kind of thing is allowable around here. Especially since it seems like tempers are especially high in general right now. (Full moon?)

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