The timing is not great. After a great momentum builder of a playoff trip, hearing news of a future ultimatum is not wonderful. I think Priest likely timed this well. Most season ticket renewals were probably committed at the time it has hit the airwaves.
For those not familiar, here is the issue. The Jackets have seemingly ran well for 9 years, with decent ticket sales, good sponsorship, etc. but have somehow lost 80 million dollars. This was after being profitable the first couple seasons. Priest, our team president, has taken a long hard look at our finances, after straightening out the on-ice product. He has shipped the books to NHL officials for review and the problem has come down to one thing, the Arena.
The Blue Jackets uniquely, have a privately owned arena. Nationwide ponied up a lot of dollars to get it built. We pay Nationwide on the lease. Nationwide even deferred our lease payment for the entire season in an attempt to help. Nationwide own most of the parking areas around the arena and they have tagged their naming rights onto the arena.
The Blue Jackets do not get naming revenue on the arena as a consequence and we do not get parking revenue. The plan. To sell the arena to Franklin County, This would also be nice because then Blue Jackets personel would no longer have to book Miley Cyrus.
How would Franklin County pay for this? A proposed "Sin Tax" on beer, wine, and cigarettes.
John P. McConnell, our owner, has stated that if we continue to lose money like this, he would eventually be forced to sell the team, which may then be relocated.
The Cannon's Take
This is a proactive approach by the team leadership, which is a very good thing. Nobody likes to lose money, but 80 million dollars over 9 years (17 million lost during the lockout), is chump change for the McConnels and Wolfe families. Realistically though, if any commodity loses that much money, you have to consider ditching it.
Priest has thought this out, a solution is needed, would their ever be good timing for this type of news? No. It is better we hear it now, than Summer 2010 when the purse strings are stretched further and wallets more exasperated.
The "Sin Tax" will not be popular. There are definitely more people who drink and smoke, than go to Blue Jackets games. Then you have the handful who will be torn between their two passion: CBJ or Adult Passions.
When it comes down to it, if you want to have a pro sports team, you do have to pay for it. After reviving downtown, I think Franklin County will need to step up eventually. It is hard to argue the HUGE benefits that the arena and the team have brought to the Arena District. Nationwide seems game on most solutions. I think this will be remedied in time.
Am I worried? Although this is a SERIOUS issue, I am not worried. Bettman has basically thrown his body over the Coyotes and Predators are in much worse financial shape. An ownership change could in the longrun be possible, but the NHL has a recent track record of refusing relocation, even when it makes sense. Columbus has proven to be a pretty solid hockey market, the NHL knows this, we will not be losing our team.
I will be much more concerned if we are in the same spot in 2010 and 2011 and other proposed solutions have been slapped to the ground. Optimistically, resolving this issue, will be wonderful for the team.