GLENS FALLS -- The American Hockey League affiliate of the Calgary Flames, which is relocating to Glens Falls, is one of five AHL teams city officials attempted to recruit, said Glens Falls Mayor John “Jack” Diamond.
The mayor said after attempts to recruit four other teams were unfruitful, the chances of recruiting an AHL team for the upcoming season looked doubtful.
But one evening in March, Mike Holditch, senior vice president and general manager of the Flames, called Diamond on his cellphone.
“I was pulling into my (home) driveway and it was Mike Holditch,” Diamond said in an interview at City Hall on Tuesday. “I was pleasantly surprised.”
Shortly after that, Holditch visited Glens Falls and toured the Civic Center, and city officials waited for the Flames management to make a decision.
On April 15, the Flames ownership announced it would relocate its AHL team from Abbotsford, British Columbia, but did not say where.
On Monday, the ownership confirmed it will relocate the AHL team to Glens Falls, the same day the AHL Board of Governors approved the move.
Diamond would not discuss details of a proposed contract with the Flames, other than reiterating it is for three seasons with an option to renew for two additional seasons.
He said information will be disclosed at a press conference being planned for some time next week.
The contract is similar to terms of the city’s contract with the Adirondack Phantoms, which played at the Civic Center for the past five seasons. The Phantoms are relocating to a new arena being built in Allentown, Pa.
“The contract is similar,” Diamond said. “It’s not much different than the old contract that we have. It’s an agreement that we can all live with.”
Diamond said the Flames have not required the city to make any arena improvements prior to the opening of the upcoming season.
City 2nd Ward Councilman Bill Collins, who chairs the city’s Civic Center Committee, said Tuesday that Diamond had not yet briefed Common Council members on details of the contract.
Diamond said having hockey this fall will improve the arena’s bottom line, but will not put the city-owned arena in the black.
“It’s not going to be the building’s savior, by any means,” he said.
The city projected a $605,360 subsidy to cover operating losses and debt for 2014, the same amount as in 2013.
The projection was based on not having a hockey tenant this fall.
So this year’s deficit likely will wind up being less than in 2013, Diamond said.
“There’s 16 dates (of hockey games in 2014) that we didn’t have revenue projected for,” he said.
Diamond said the Flames ownership had not yet discussed with him what the Glens Falls team’s name will be or specifically when they will start a season ticket campaign.
The Adirondack Regional Chamber of Commerce is prepared to assist the new AHL’s team with its season ticket drive and corporate sponsorship campaign, said Peter Aust, the chamber’s president and chief executive officer.
Aust said he had written previously to the Flames management and offered to introduce them to “key business leaders” locally to discuss their interest in Glens Falls, but the Flames management did not feel a need to do that.
Aust said the key will be building long-term support for the new team.
“The first year with the Phantoms was tremendous,” but support waned in subsequent seasons, he said.
Collins, the 2nd Ward councilman, praised Diamond and EDC Warren County President Edward Bartholomew, for closing the deal.
“I think hats are off to both of them because a month ago we were trying to figure out what we were going to do if we didn’t have a hockey team.”
Diamond said he spoke with representatives of five AHL ownership groups in recent months.
He and Bartholomew exchanged written proposals with one other team, but the owners decided not to relocate.
After that, he made “cold calls” to owners of three other teams that he heard might be considering relocating.
“Their response was ... ‘We’ll keep you in mind,’ ” he said.
Diamond would not identify the teams because of a confidentiality agreement with the AHL.
Diamond said city officials had spoken with the Flames ownership in 2013, and at that time the owners decided to keep the team in British Columbia.
Their interest in Glens Falls resurfaced at the last minute this year.
Diamond said the credit for landing the team belongs to local hockey fans and to the AHL Board of Governors.
“I can’t say enough about our fan base and our community,” he said. “They made our job a lot easier because they never gave up on the American Hockey League.”