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09-27-2012, 01:06 PM
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Join Date: May 2007
Location: Nord de l'Ontario
Country: Canada
Posts: 500
vCash: 500
La Baie Nordique...

I can speak for North Bay, as I reside in that city.

Five years ago, I would have said a major junior club would be successful without too many problems.

Today, I have several concerns, albeit they are surmountable:

1 - Economic situation of the city. North Bay & parts of Northeastern Ontario are experiencing economic challenges (partially due to the provincial government's policies). Hydro rates are through the roof which is causing business to relocate elsewhere in the country (Sandvik Mining Equipment in North Bay 50 jobs off to Bathurst, NB -- Xstrata relocating 700 smelter jobs from Timmins to Rouyn-Noranda QC, just to name a few). The Ministry of Northern Development & Mines' autocratic decision to privatize the Ontario Northland Transportation Commission (which employs over 1000 people across the highway 11 corridor - of which close to 600 are employed here locally --- which results in an uncertain future for the families & employees). And I digress. An unhealthy economic situation in any community will result in people reducing their spending habits. Entertainment is usually the first thing cut.

2 - Fan Support Sustainability. I will post later the fan attendance averages for the Junior A & University hockey clubs from 2002-03 until the present. While the averages aren't necessarily bad, they certainly fall in the lower tier level of major junior fan support for obvious reasons (size of the market, arena capacity, people's ability to pay for tickets). It also remains to be seen what kind of support would exist for a major junior club. It is a given that if a major junior club does come to fruition here, the Lakers & Trappers will be forced out the door (as per the stipulation in the lease agreement with both clubs).

That said, the Centennials never averaged less than 2000 fans a game through their 20 year stay. The team left with an average of about 2314 in their final year, and close to 2400 fans in the previous year (2000-01). During the Stay Cents Stay campaign, 2712 seasons tickets pledges were collected & payed as well (unsuccessful though in the end).

3 - Memorial Gardens. Memorial Gardens has undergone some structural, functional & esthetical renovations during the past five years. The facility is well maintained. The visitor's dressing room is no longer the size of a closet (for those who remember, the visitor's dressing room on the West Side of the Building was extremely tiny --- roughly the size of maybe 1/3 of the lobby where you purchase tickest in the arena). There are two new dressing rooms built. Some safety improvements to the gondala. And many esthetic improvements such as a new digital marquee signs outside, new scoreclock, television screens (one for each section), and odd polishing jobs throughout the building.

While it would be fairly easy to expand the rink width & length (due to the seating being significantly away from the glass), there remains a significant cost to adding in these modifications. I'm not sure there would be unilateral consent from all city councillors (though, there are those on council who have publically stated their interest in a team --- hence the clause in the lease agreements with other tenants).

Here are some technical specifications from the city's website:

There is additional room (empty storage space) in the south end of the building. I'm told there are plans stored away that illustrate additional seating could be placed there without much trouble (behind the curtain)

Logistically for the league, North Bay doesn't overlap into an existing team's fan base, something that you might have trouble justifying to any other potential market with the exception of Cornwall. For scheduling purposes, a team here makes the Northern Road trips for teams more economic if you're able to play 3 game weekends.

There are challenges to overcome though. Regardless, it will remain interesting to see what manifests over the next few months.

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