It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement over a new NHL-ready arena in the Toronto area.
The revenue streams would surge like a tidal wave. The fan support would be off the charts; and having a second franchise to be the Clippers/Mets/White Sox to the Toronto Maple Leafs’ Lakers/Yankees/Cubs is a tremendously tantalizing idea from a rivalry perspective.
In fact, it’s hard to find many people that aren’t stoked about possible expansion or relocation to the $325 million arena being considered for Markham … unless you’re Hamilton.
Yes, Hamilton: That glorious city in Southern Ontario that built Copps Coliseum in 1985 and has been waiting for an NHL team ever since. The city that nearly had the Nashville Predators, until Jim Balsillie botched it. The city that nearly had the Phoenix Coyotes … well, until Jim Balsillie was defeated in court by the National Hockey League.
According to Scott Radley of the Hamilton Spectator, the Markham arena might push the dagger all the way through Hamilton’s hockey hopes, to the point where the city is no longer a market with whom potentially relocated openly flirt.
From the Spectator:
If a team was looking to move to this part of the world, it would suddenly have the choice between a brand-new, state-of-the-art facility paid for in large measure by the city or an antique that needs tons of revitalization just to get it to modern standards. Assuming our city council has no plans to dump a hundred million or two into a new rink of our own anytime soon, advantage Markham.
If legally enforceable territorial boundaries actually exist — indemnification has always been a murky issue — an owner could choose a home where he’d have to try to work out a deal with the Toronto Maple Leafs alone, or have to sort things out with both the Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres. Advantage Markham.
When it comes to filling lucrative private boxes and filling expensive seats, would you prefer to put your team in a city flush with 400 corporate headquarters and 900 high-tech and life sciences companies or in a city where a good chunk of the crowd would have to be drawn from wealthier neighbouring communities? Maybe that’s a wash, but likely advantage Markham.
Markham could be the end of Hamilton’s jockeying for a team, if Balsillie’s fade from prominence wasn’t already.
They’ll be like Kansas City without the facility. Or Hartford without the incredible nostalgic ties to beloved former franchise.
But hey, they’ll also be a reasonable driving distance from attending a Toronto Whatever-The-Hells game; so they’ve got that going for them, which is nice.