Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Carolina Hurricanes are just a second-user

UPDATE, Sunday, June 9, 2013: For an good update on NC State's position, read the article in the Sunday, June 9 edition of The News & Observer: NC State counters Hurricanes' claim in PNC Arena dispute. And, for an even better understanding, look for and listen to sports radio host David Glenn explanation at David Glenn Show.


So, Carolina Hurricanes General Manager Jim Rutherford told N&O hockey beat reporter Chip Alexander in the “CanesNow” blog of June 4, 2013: "This is a unique situation. We came when people were talking about building (the) building. ... This building might not have been built if (the Hurricanes) hadn't have come along. Certainly the $40 million that (Canes owner) Pete Karmanos put into it to upgrade the building helped get the building going. With that being said, we respect the fact that N.C. State gets priority dates. Saturday is important to them, Wednesday is important to them because those are televised ACC games. But we don't respect the fact that they tie up half the dates during the winter to play a minimal amount of games."
Mr. Rutherford may be trying his best to be a comedian but the punch line is on him. The $40 million donation from Mr. Karmanos used toward the building of the Entertainment and Sports Arena (ESA) was done so in his best interest and not that of NC State University. The building might have been completed faster than expected but the upgrade was to accommodate his hockey team and NHL standards. It was not in the best interest of NC State basketball as the hockey design pushed the fans away from the playing floor, reducing the home-court advantage, and increasing operational costs. His money also was used to build a facility with seating way beyond NC State’s requirements. The building would have been built without Mr. Karmanos $40 million, and it would have been just fine for NC State basketball, as originally intended. It would not have seated as many as it does today, but that would have been okay.
As far as Saturday and Wednesday being important to NC State, I ask this question in all seriousness: What TV schedule has Mr. Rutherford been studying? In the time the Hurricanes have been in Raleigh, ACC Basketball games have been played and televised on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. ACC football is played and televised Thursday and Saturday. With the expansion of the Atlantic Coast Conference do not be surprised to find ACC basketball played all seven days/nights and football stepping outside the Thursday and Saturday schedule. While the Hurricanes have a contract with the NHL, NC State has one with the Atlantic Coast Conference. Neither the Hurricanes nor NC State can dictate to their respective leagues when games will be played. That’s up to the leagues and their respective television partners who, whether you like it or not, pay most of the bills (at least in the ACC; maybe not so much in the NHL) and therefore have a lot of say-so in the date and time for games. For the benefit of recruiting and expanding its popularity, NC State needs all the TV exposure it can get; to try to dictate dates and times of kickoffs and tip-offs would be detrimental to that end.
Let’s face it. That a college team and a professional team are using the same building is tough for scheduling. I’ve not looked thoroughly but my thought is there is no other major college team in the nation that shares an arena 100% of the time with a professional team. And, when you throw in a shared parking lot for football and hockey, the situation here is very unique. The NHL wants to complete its schedules in June; the ACC completes its basketball schedule in August and sets TV times for football throughout the season, sometimes just a few days before the game. The ACC, with a huge TV contract from ESPN, is seeking maximum exposure in basketball and football for its members, and being flexible in establishing kickoff times for football and dates and times for basketball is extremely important to the success of the conference. It’s also in the contract between the league, its members and ESPN.
One thing to remember, Mr. Karmanos brought his $40 million to the table long after the plans were in the works to build the ESA for the primary purpose of NC State basketball games. If the University had not started the project, if NC State University had not convinced the General Assembly to match the money raised by NC State University, no one would have ever had the thought of asking the Hartford Whalers to move to North Carolina. So, that the Hurricanes are here is not because Mr. Karmanos wanted to move to Raleigh and asked for an arena to be built for his hockey team. The Hurricanes are in Raleigh because NC State decided to build an arena and some know-it-all civic leaders thought the best way to build it was to seek a second user which was not necessary. And, that’s what we have with the Hurricanes, a second user.
This is not about who uses the building more for its purpose. It's not about attendance figures. It's about what's right. And what's right is NC State University's desire many years ago to build a new and larger facility for its men's basketball team. That's how it started, and that's how it should be viewed. If this were NC State's facility, the fans would not be over-charged with outlandish prices for food as we now see because that happens to be the way of the professional sports world. And, it would have the warmth as it should have as the home of the Wolfpack than just being another building that's not as special as it should be for college basketball. It's a professional atmosphere with a college team playing on a frozen floor. Now that's cold.
Mr. Rutherford also said to the N&O: We respect the fact that N.C. State has priority dates and rightfully so.” If Mr. Rutherford has such respect then he should dig in his heels and tell the NHL to back off. He should tell the NHL the Hurricanes are thankful to call Raleigh home and that you have a commitment to NC State that must be honored and that means waiting until the ACC has its schedule in place, especially for basketball, even in August. Otherwise, to paraphrase the great philosopher, Lewis Grizzard: “Delta is ready when you are to take you back to Hartford.”