The Charlotte Checkers may fade to oblivion: No home for hockey this time

Posted by Andy Durham on March 14, 2010 at 9:15 pm under Professional | Read the First Comment

Jon Pritchett thought he had a deal. His efforts to revive the San Diego Gulls went far enough for a meeting with the mayor and the recruitment of a chief executive.

Less than two months ago, the East Coast Hockey League granted preliminary approval for the Charlotte (N.C.) Checkers to relocate to the San Diego Sports Arena in time for the 2010-11 season. But the deal fell apart over desired improvements presented under tight time constraints to the arena’s majority partner, AEG.

“They felt that it was in their best interests to operate the building without a hockey team,” Pritchett said yesterday afternoon. “There are not really hard feelings, but I was surprised. We would all have rather known that was their posture in the beginning because we would not have wasted the time.”

Pritchett, CEO of Carolina-based Club 9 Sports, was working the deal on behalf of an investment group headed by Tennessee towing tycoon Bill Miller. The idea was to buy the ECHL Checkers, who will be supplanted next season by the relocation of the American Hockey League’s Albany (N.Y.) River Rats, and to move that franchise to a large, established hockey market that has been without a team since 2006.

The effort is encouraging. Making it pay is the problem.

“It wasn’t a waste of anyone’s time,” Sports Arena General Manager Ernie Hahn said last night. “There obviously was a lot of interest. I worked 2 1/2 months on the project and ran eight different sets of pro formas on the thing. We were given a short period of time to work through a lot of issues. I feel really good about the work we did in a short period of time to make the best decision for AEG…

“We’d love to have a hockey team. It just has to work on all levels.”

Minor league hockey teams can be operated profitably, but the need for costly capital improvements at the 43-year-old Sports Arena and the prospect of losing more lucrative events to conflicting dates clearly impacted the interest of Hahn and AEG. Hahn estimates a new hockey team would entail at least half a million dollars in upfront investment in ice-making equipment, rink setup, locker rooms, etc., and he wonders about the “opportunity cost” of tying up a significant portion of the arena’s winter calendar.

Bottom line, Hahn suspects the Sports Arena might make as much money from the Black Eyed Peas’ April 3 tour date as it could from an entire ECHL season. Bottom line, that’s a pretty persuasive argument.

Why run a lemonade stand for three months if you can fare as well from a single night of baby-sitting?

from Tim Sullivan-Union-Tribune columnist and Click Here to continue and there is plenty more to read so start the clicking to the linking…..


  • Daniel Cunnane said,

    Why not move the team to Richmond, Virginia? The Colesium in downtown Richmond currently has no hockey team. I sent an email to the Checkers about relocating to Richmond but they never responded back.