Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Houston Aeros Relocation Cheat Sheet

The affiliation the Americans have had with the Houston Aeros this year has been great as seven players (Baldwin, Montgomery, Tyler Ludwig, Trevor Ludwig, Grantham, Schaafsma, and Dell) have spent time with the AHL club. If you haven't been following what is going on with the Aeros lease negotiations in Houston it appears as if the lease will not be renewed and the Aeros will be relocating. While several locations have been rumored as the new location for the Minnesota Wild AHL affiliate (Sioux Falls, Wichita & Des Moines) the most likely place for Minnesota to place the Aeros was believed to be Des Moines.

This past week everything was put on the back burner as several NHL/AHL changes were announced which has created some potential domino effects that could impact the Aeros.The question for us is what impact do all of these changes have on the Americans relationship with the Aeros? Stay tuned.

Here is some info on why Des Moines was looked at as the favorite for the Minnesota Wild AHL franchise location. This was the conventional thinking until this week.  The Aeros will be moving to Des Moines, Iowa, despite it's status as a 2-time AHL loser (Iowa Stars, now the Texas Stars, 2005-2008, Iowa Chops, Anaheim's top farm team, 2008-2009). Wells Fargo Arena, a state-of-the-art facility (hockey capacity 15,181) opened in 2005 and is operated by Comcast Spectacor, the Philadelphia Flyers arena management firm. The team will likely be rechristened the Iowa Wild.
Des Moines is 245 miles due south of St. Paul, MN, and is connected by Interstate 35, the equivalent of Houston to Dallas. Greater Des Moines has a population of 575,000. The local economy's not great, but if the Wild are going to be forced to subsidize their top farm team, either by the breathtaking greed of Mr. Alexander in Houston (who demands to be the highest paid landlord in the AHL), or by potential operating losses in an inferior market much closer to home, with REASONABLE lease terms in a modern arena whose management appreciates their presence, they will choose the latter. As would anyone who understands business.

The article below written by Dave Eminian of the Journal Star ( talks about some of the changes that will potentially take place triggered by the sale this week of the Peoria Rivermen by the St. Louis Blues to the Vancouver Canucks.The Blues are now pursuing the Chicago Wolves to be their AHL affiliate.

The St. Louis Blues have contacted the Chicago Wolves in an effort to make a deal that would have them serve as NHL parent club.
“They want to talk to us and get something done with us in Chicago,” Chicago Wolves general manager Wendell Young said. “But we will have some stipulations. We have eight NHL teams interested in operating as our parent club.
“And we don’t know yet what Vancouver’s intentions are with us. They are (presently) our parent club, and they have not yet notified us whether they intend to stay or not.”
The Blues have sold the Rivermen to the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks want to operate their AHL farm team in Abbottsford, British Columbia, essentially their backyard.
But the Calgary Flames are operating an AHL team there now, locked in a longterm lease.
The Canucks are waiting to see if Calgary will exit the market. If they don’t, then it is possible Vancouver could operate its AHL farm team in Peoria next season. Those players would be the prospects currently playing for the Chicago Wolves.
Vancouver will need to operate somewhere while it tries to out-wait Calgary for the Abbotsford market.
“That’s exactly what could happen,” a source said on Saturday. “Abbotsford is losing a lot of money. But the city there subsidizes, pays to cover the losses. You have to think the city there would love to have Vancouver in that building instead.”
AHL and NHL sources also say the Minnesota Wild, who have been operating their AHL farm club in Houston, have slowed in negotiations to move that team to Des Moines, Iowa.
That deal has been in the works since last summer.  “The brakes are definitely on with that deal,” said a source familiar with the deal. “Minnesota has an eye on Peoria.”
Meaning, the Wild could become a possible AHL answer to replace the Rivermen in Peoria.
There were ECHL sources weighing in as well, noting it’s possible Peoria could end up back in the league it dominated for nine seasons.
It’s a fluid situation.
Dave Eminian covers the Rivermen for the Journal Star. Reach him at 686-3206 or Follow him on Twitter @icetimecleve.

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