This is interesting…the owners of the Dayton Dragons baseball team are eyeing a new arena that would be located just north of the Warren/Montgomery County line. And they’re studying whether an AHL team would work there.
Of course, this is all still at the very speculative stage — there is no arena yet, and the AHL’s affiliation rules make it difficult for new franchises to get off the ground. But this ownership group has been very successful with the Dragons, so we should expect they know what they’re doing when it comes to minor league sports.
If it does come to pass, several entities stand to be affected, not necessarily in a positive way:
- Obviously, the ECHL Dayton Bombers would face a stiff threat from an AHL team. They’ve struggled at the gates as the only hockey team in town, been near the brink of folding before. And we’ve seen in Cincinnati just how sustainable two minor league hockey teams are in the long run. The Bombers would have the name recognition and some loyal fans going for them, but I could see them not being long for the world if the AHL team is created.
- I wonder as well how this would affect the Cyclones? They’ve finally seemed to gain some traction in terms of attendance in the second half of 2007-08. But the proposed south Dayton arena would be closer and more convenient for a lot of people in places like Mason, West Chester, and elsewhere in Cincinnati’s northern suburbs than US Bank Arena. I could definitely see the ‘Clones losing some fans to a Dayton AHL entry. How many is the question. This is purely impressionistic evidence taken from a handful of games, but I’ve observed that there seem to be as many Kentucky plates as Ohio in the garage for Cyclones games. So, if their fanbase is mostly south of the river, they likely wouldn’t feel this new team much. But if they have been drawing a lot of people from Warren and Butler Counties — watch out.
- Finally, I wonder what this would mean for the Jackets, or more precisely, for the Crunch. When Cincinnati and Cleveland were without AHL teams and looking to get them back, there was a lot of talk among fans about moving the Jackets’ AHL affiliate to Ohio because of the marketing synergy that would be created. Of course, as it worked out, Cincinnati’s franchise fell through due to low ticket sales, and the Jackets had renewed the agreement with Syracuse before Cleveland got their team back. If Dayton comes on-line in a couple years, though, I imagine the debate will start up again. And given that Dayton is probably the best potential non-Central Ohio market for the Jackets (proximity to Columbus and no competition from other major league sports based in that city), it might make more sense than it would have with Cincinnati and/or Cleveland. Which could be fun for Jackets fans, to have the prospects playing an easy hour drive away. But could lead to the good folks in Syracuse losing their AHL team, as happened in Cincinnati when the Ducks switched affiliates to Portland. Of course, it’s also worth noting that Columbus dropped the Bombers as their ECHL affiliate this season and went with Elmira instead, so maybe Upstate New York is just fine for the CBJ management?
- As for me, I loathe the Nutter Center with the white-hot intensity of 1000 suns, so I for one welcome our new suburban arena building AHL overlords…
In any event, we should keep an eye on this and see how it develops.