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Another shot at NHL team for Hamilton
Council met last night with RIM boss Jim Balsillie and agreed to reactivate deal for Copps Coliseum

By Andrew Dreschel
The Hamilton Spectator
(May 31, 2007)

Hamilton has re-activated an agreement with Waterloo billionaire Jim Balsillie giving him exclusive rights to bring an NHL team to Copps Coliseum.

As part of the deal, the city is also negotiating to give Balsillie the right to run Hamilton Place and the Convention Centre -- if he brings a team to town.

The move comes on the heels of Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM, the company that makes the BlackBerry communications device, agreeing to buy the NHL's Nashville Predators for $220 million.

Balsillie approached the city late last week through Toronto attorney Richard Rodier.

That led to a flurry of behind-the-scenes discussions, including a telephone call between Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Balsillie.

"He has assured me that he wants to secure a team and he is interested in bringing it to Hamilton," Eisenberger said last night. "Certainly he has the resources to do it and we will leave it up to him to pull it together."

After going behind closed doors last night, council supported going forward with the two-step agreement and negotiation process. Reached at his office, Rodier declined to comment.

But if the NHL board of governors approves the sale of the Predators, Balsillie is widely expected to move the money-losing team to a new city, possibly in Ontario.

The fact Balsillie, operating as Golden Horseshoe Sports and Entertainment Inc., moved so quickly to once again sew up exclusive rights to Copps -- rights he let lapse last fall -- indicates Hamilton fits into his plans as either a possible location for the team or as a pawn to leverage other negotiations.

The new twist of linking exclusive rights to Copps with running all the city-owned venues connected with Hamilton Entertainment and Convention Facilities Inc. (HECFI) strongly suggests Hamilton may be more than just a bargaining chip.

Councillor Terry Whitehead, the city's NHL point man, says bringing an National Hockey League team to Hamilton remains a hard sell.

Two previous bids to snare a franchise tripped over a combination of brush-offs from NHL brass and the presumed hurdle of paying millions in compensation to Toronto and Buffalo owners for trespassing on their territorial rights.

Whitehead remains skeptical but open-minded.

"We always knew it was going to be an uphill battle, but it's nice to have someone in there like Mr. Balsillie who is prepared to enter the fight," he said.

"It's far better for us to support something like this than sitting back and never having this kind of opportunity."

Councillor Tom Jackson, who also sits on the NHL subcommittee, points out there are still negotiations around HECFI to be worked out, but he's cautiously looking on the bright side.

"I wouldn't waste my time and effort on supporting this if I didn't think there was at least a legitimate opportunity this time around," said Jackson.

Sources say Balsillie's people are eager to wrap up the HECFI talks within a couple of weeks.

Under the proposed terms, the city would retain ownership of HECFI buildings but Balsillie would operate and manage them if he brings a team to Steeltown.

The Copps portion of the deal reportedly mirrors key points in the exclusivity agreement the city negotiated with Rodier, on behalf of a mystery client, now known to be Balsillie, in 2004.

Balsillie would be responsible for leasehold improvements, including upgrades and the expansion of corporate boxes or suites to bring the 17,500-seat arena up to modern NHL standards.

Rodier notified the city it was cancelling that agreement last October, just days after Balsillie signed an agreement to purchase the struggling Pittsburgh Penguins.

The cancellation suggested he was either trying to allay fears in Pittsburgh that he intended to move the team or Copps simply no longer figured in his plans.

Regardless, Balsillie backed out of the Pittsburgh purchase because of NHL conditions and obviously went hunting for another team. Now he's back at Hamilton's door.

But we're not the only city wondering what the billionaire's game plan is. Speculation is rife he may also be looking at building a hockey stadium near Kitchener.

Hamilton's advantage, of course, is we're smack in the middle of the hockey-hungry Golden Horseshoe with an arena already waiting to be filled.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
^ Why drive when there's also GO Bus and Train. The GO Station isn't far from Copps, about 10 minutes walk.
 

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Hamilton makes perfect sense... much more so than KW. I know RIM is in KW, but I think they are overestimating the number of people from Greater Toronto that would drive out there for a game.
Hamilton makes more sense that K-W, except for being within both Buffalo's and Toronto's so called "territory".... and that's a huge problem. Under the NHL's bylaws, a team simply can't locate to Hamilton until both Toronto and Buffalo agree.... that will cost major bucks..... then there is also the question of whether Copp's is up to NHL standards... it may turn out that is it better just to build a new arena. So there are some very serious issues (unresolved) with relocating a team to Hamilton.

By the time Balsillie renovates Copp's and buys off Toronto and Buffalo, he could have moved the team to KW and have the best new arena in the NHL.
 

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It would be cool cuz I can get to Hamilton easily on the GO Lakeshore West line. And I might actually be able to afford to see a game then.
However if it were built in K/W, maybe that would speed things up with bringing GO service there.
 

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Mr. Haney(Cruz) for Pres.
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However if it were built in K/W, maybe that would speed things up with bringing GO service there.
Possibly, but so far the head of the Region of Waterloo doesn't really want GO service there.... he's afraid that K-W will attract too many commuters.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Apparently some of the details in the deal is that Balsillie will have to hold a 15 or 20 year lease with Copps. Balsillie is prepared to spend $100 million at Copps. He'll get naming rights to Copps, possibly naming rights to the Convention Centre and Hamilton Place. Jim has assured council last night that this is not a temporary move, he'd be glad to lease for 15-20 years. Also the city has a clause where if the City feels like it's being used as a bargaining chip the City can pull out of the deal.
 

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I would love for a team to come to Hamilton, I would instantly change my support from the blue and white, to the Hamilton "?".

I think they should either be named the Steelhawks (former OHL team) or the Hamilton Tigers, as that is what the former team in Hamilton was called from 1920-1925.
 

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sweet! great news for Hamilton and hockey!

if only Winnipeg could get a team as well....
 

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First off, yes Hamilton is now in the lead after this latest news. That said:

What's with this Toronto/Buffalo "territory" issue? I thought Hamilton was an independent city?
The territory issue is the 80km radius around Toronto and Buffalo. If a team locates within another team's area a fee must be paid.

Hamilton makes perfect sense... much more so than KW. I know RIM is in KW, but I think they are overestimating the number of people from Greater Toronto that would drive out there for a game.
This wouldn't be great for urban lovers, but a Kanata-style arena on the 401 is probably what would be built for the Waterloo area. If a Cambridge 401 Arena was built, it could draw off Toronto's suburbs as well. Although Hamilton's arena is closer, a Cambridge arena wouldn't be the huge difference you make it seem (it might even be closer for some northern Toronto suburbs):

 

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If LA and NY metros can have two teams, why can't Toronto? Besides, it would be nice to have an Ontario hockey team that doesn't come a city that constantly screws us over. :)
 

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Possibly, but so far the head of the Region of Waterloo doesn't really want GO service there.... he's afraid that K-W will attract too many commuters.
And I thought Fred Gilbert was a moron for banning wireless internet at Lakehead University, boy, was I wrong. The head of Waterloo Region is a dunce.
 

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Mr. Haney(Cruz) for Pres.
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Since when do cities not want commuters? lol. What a moron.
I think you may have misconstrued my post. The regional chair (of the "Region of Waterloo") is Ken Seiling. While Ken has indicated strong support for the development of light rapid transit (LRT) within the region, he has been far less positive about establishing GO service between Waterloo Region and Toronto, due to concern over the Region becoming a bedroom community of Toronto.

While he doesn't specifically mention "GO train" service, this article shows his concern about bedroom communities:

http://www.therecord.com/links/links_0410048475.html

"Seiling worries that having too many commuters could reduce community volunteers, charitable donations and community involvements.

"When you become a bedroom community, you lose a bit," he said."


So you see, I was right. BTW, name calling is a sign of immaturity.
 

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You're going to have commuters to Toronto anyway, though. KW is big enough that it will still have a large degree of community individuality, like Hamilton. Hamilton isn't a bedroom community of Toronto, and it has Go Service and a strong city identity. He's over reacting.
 
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