Saturday, December 23, 2006

A Poser: Where to Build the Stadium

Freshly armed with the correct spelling of Pittsburgh and justly chastised for my egregious mistake in saying the Penguins are an original NHL team, I am back to carry on with my speculations about local billionaire Jim Balsillie getting my home town of Waterloo its very own NHL team. Go Jimbo!

Now, in my extremely hazy understanding of the World of Sport, moving major league-type teams to a town is supposed to be a town initiative. We should be agitating, money-raising, pledging support, blahblahblah. However, in this case we are able to circumvent all that hard work because of the presence of our hockey-loving, Blackberry-making local hero. This is not necessarily a problem because there is no question about the importance of hockey in this community. (Small plug: my company's A-league hockey team has wrested the trophy away from RIM and displays it in pride of place on our reception counter.) We are no fair weather fans. We play hockey; we watch hockey; we live hockey; we are hockey. Well, that's a kind of an antiinclusionary "we" that doesn't include me.

Despite our lottery-like windfall, we shouldn't be too complacent... if he buys a team he might not move it, or he might move it to, ug, Hamilton. The least we can do is provide some input into the logistics of our brand new NHL team.

So where to put the stadium? The obvious choice is between the Waterloo Regional International Airport and the 401. This would provide easy access by air and also put the stadium within an hour's drive of Toronto and its urban sprawl, Hamilton and its urban sprawl, and London with its urban sprawl. All in all, an easy drive for over 5 million hockey fans.

Another choice is the Chicopee Ski resort. It is near the 401, already has roads and parking, and hasn't been able to open much in the last few winters.

It is difficult for me to give up on the idea of situating the stadium in the town of Waterloo, even though we are the furthest part of the urban sprawl from the 401 and the airport. After consultation with my Waterloo city map, I think we need to build it near hiway 85, and it looks like it's going to require tearing something down. (You can't make an omlette without etcetera.) But heck, our city hall expropriates people's homes so developers can create nice new subdivisions unpolluted by old farmhouses, so you'd think they could turf the Waterloo Motor Inn and a couple of car dealerships. I'm not asking for the Conestogo Mall for heaven's sake. Although that's an idea...



Graeme said...

There are some restrictions on where the stadium could be. The Leafs have the right to block any team from moving to a stadium within 60 miles of the ACC. According to Google Earth, that means west of Fischer-Hallman.

This is why putting a team in Hamilton is so unlikely - both Toronto and Buffalo would have to consent. Outside of that range, the Leafs can't object.

Yappa said...

Thanks Graeme! Once again you have added useful facts to my pie-in-the sky musings. West of Fischer-Hallman is not a bad place. There's land down by the 401 that would suit, or even Wilmot Township.

Darren McEwen said...

I think bringing a team to the K-W region is a bad idea.

Many NHL insiders agree.

No one really knows if Balsillie would have had to follow restrictions on not moving the teams.

But from the NHL's perspective, why move a team to central Ontario? The NHL wouldn't really gain any more fans or TV contracts.

Unfortunately, it's all about the Benjamin. Yes, Benjamin with the "new" NHL.

The NHL wants the sport to grow in new markets. Less than two hours from the ACC and a stone's throw from Toronto city limits, the NHL would only be shifting pieces of the big pie from the Leafs or the Sens to the Waterloo (insert team name) and not making the pie any bigger.

The latest is that Balsillie now DOES want to buy the team again and wants to work with Mario.

Make up your mind! I'm not against him buying the team. Heck, he's one heck of a success story. I just don't think a move to Ontario is smart.

(Balsillie has never publicly said that he would move the team but speculation is high)

Sparky Duck said...

Waterloo Iowa??

Oh and I have tagged you for a meme, totally random like.

Mark Dowling said...

The problem is that the Leafs can't accommodate the demand - every game is a sellout. With an arena in Waterloo you accommodate lots more Leaf fans 3-4 times a year just like Buffalo and Ottawa do.

I would think something like an NLL franchise should be a priority to help get the arena going on nights when the team is out of town. It needs to be in an area with both transit and some bars/restos - maybe near the University with an agreement that the University teams can use it too?

The big question is whether Canada will ever again get a franchise let alone Kitchener for TV money reasons when cities like Houston or KC are lining up - and there's always Vegas if the gambling thing can be finagled.