Thrashers-to-Winnipeg move to be greased with public loonies?

According to the Sporting News, Winnipeg arena owners True North Sports and Entertainment have scheduled a noon press conference to announce the purchase of the Atlanta Thrashers and relocation to the Great White North. This is has been rumored to be in the works for weeks now, but it sounds as if it’s now official.

True North was previously briefly in the running in the Phoenix Coyotes sweepstakes, but has apparently found a less complicated sale partner in the Thrashers, who have almost matched the Coyotes empty seat for empty seat since arriving as an expansion team in 1999. So far, Thrashers fans seem to have responded to their city’s second loss of an NHL team to Western Canada with grudging resignation (and hating on Canadian media).

The interesting bit for FoS purposes is that while the Manitoba provincial government says it won’t “support the operations” of a relocated Thrashers, it could help pay for renovations to the seven-year-old MTS Centre to help out the team. This would be on top of more than $40 million in public subsidies that the private arena received back when it was built.

Still, it looks like Winnipeg is set to get a new team for a total expenditure of less than $100 million in taxpayer dollars, which isn’t bad as sports subsidies go. It just goes to show that if you have a good market for your sport — and the league is desperate enough for relocation sites and your mayor isn’t the world’s worst negotiator — you can still get a team without breaking your piggy bank. Just denting it severely.

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