Here is the press release from the Predators. Contained within are audio files of the entire conference.
Here is a letter from Leipold to the Predators fans. He said that he tried to run it like a business, and it is a failing business. Some of his key points, in his own words:
- Our average regular season attendance this past season was 13,589, up from the year before, but still 2,000 below the NHL average. A low turnout, combined with a low ticket price results in a poor financial situation.
- While individual fan support has always been strong, we’ve worked aggressively to increase our local business support since Season Four. We’ve tried a variety of approaches with minimal success. Our records show today that corporate support for the Nashville Predators makes up about 35% of our season ticket base. The average in other markets is around 60%. During our first two years, approximately 4,000 businesses owned season tickets. Today, only 1,800 businesses have season tickets.
- The Nashville Predators tallied up 216 points in the last two seasons, fifth most in the NHL, yet because of below-average attendance, the team will still have a real cash loss of $27 million during that time. Additionally, that loss is despite receiving the most money in the league from revenue sharing. Over the last five years, the team has lost over $60 million.
Something isn't right about this.
Who told him that owning a hockey team was a money-making venture?
He says he's been trying to sell the team for years, but he could only get minor interest from local groups looking for "partial ownership". This is the first serious "full ownership" offer he's had.
The sale will be completed in July.
What isn't clear is whether the sale will be to Balsillie personally, or to his company, Research in Motion. This is perhaps a very important factor. According to James Mirtle, RIM has purchased a 25.7 acre plot of land in Cambridge, Ontario. Mirtle points to an article in the Cambridge Times a week ago. Apparently, RIM and Balsillie were all "no comment" when asked about this land purchase.
My first reaction was "Wait. Just how much land is that?". Then I did some research about other hockey rinks, how much land they sit on, etc. Of course I looked first at the RBC Center, which sits on a whopping 80 acres of land. Not many others have information available about the footprint of their arenas, but I was able to learn that the Pepsi Center in Denver occupies a 4.6 acre parcel of land. This is definitely big enough, then to house an NHL arena, parking, and lots more.
The land is in Cambridge, but if (as the speculation goes) this land is intended for arena construction, and Balsillie relocates his team there, it's highly likely that they'll use "Hamilton" as their name, or "South Ontario", or maybe just "Ontario".
Naturally, this is putting the horse WAY before the cart. This sale will have to be approved by the league. It will. Any move will have to be approved by the league and its Board of Governors. That might get a little tricky.
For now, let's just speculate.