Life in the AHL is rather fluid. Teams come and go, teams move, and at least one affiliation changes every single year. The league's fluidity year-to-year has led the fans, and season ticket holders especially, of the Texas Stars to have some degree of trepidation when it comes to the future of hockey in Austin, Texas. We have been led to believe that if the Stars do not find a permanent franchise, they will be leaving Austin. Based on information I have gathered, I believe there is no way that the Stars will be leaving Austin.
While the AHL is a development league, it is also a business. Businesses have to make money to be successful, so that is a key component of the decision. We know that the Texas Stars rank in the top five of franchises in terms of ticket revenue, according to Dave Andrews, the Commissioner of the League. Additionally, here is a quote from a source inside the Stars organization regarding the current situation of the team's financials:
"The league is pleased with where [the Texas Stars] are at in terms of ticket revenue and corporate sponsorship as well as how we match up competitively with the other teams in the AHL."Specifics of the financials of the team were withheld due to confidentiality, but we do know that the team has done better than most in the league this year. This is pretty good for a brand new team in a southern market. Strong commitments from the corporate community have also made the team successful financially.
As far as the on-ice product, do we even have to spend time talking about it? Readers of this blog know that the team is successful on the ice. We are inching closer everyday to our first Calder Cup playoff berth, and the team has already sent out information on purchasing playoff tickets to season ticket holders. A team that was a question mark at the beginning of the year has evolved into a strong group that will almost certainly make the playoffs in their first season. The on-ice product is strong.
Texas Stars Media Relations Director, Josh Fisher, offered this regarding this teams franchise situation:
"We are working hard to secure our franchise. The AHL views the Texas Stars as a valuable team and a success story in the West. Both parties are doing what is necessary to secure a long-term solution in Cedar Park. We are moving forward and planning for next season, including [season ticket] renewals. That tells me things will be in place, and we will be here. I have never heard anything otherwise and don’t expect to. I understand the reason for concern among the fans, but I am not concerned and feel confident this will be solved."Josh raises a great point. Those of us who are season ticket holders have already received our ticket renewal letters. Also, Josh and the team at Cedar Park Center have a more vested interest in the team's continued presence in Texas; they would all be unemployed if this situation does not work out. Fish's confidence on the matter is part of what makes me so confident that the Stars will be staying.
It's important to keep in mind that the Texas Stars faced this sort of uncertainty last year as well. They were unable to purchase a permanent franchise because of the financial improprieties of the Iowa Chops franchise. The owners of the Chops had been interested in moving the franchise out of Des Moines and buying a CHL franchise to play at the Wells Fargo Arena. All of this fell through when the league suspended the team for using the franchise as collateral in a loan agreement.
The league decided to grant a temporary franchise license to the Stars after their good-faith efforts to find a franchise came up short. Until that point, there was a lot of uncertainty as to whether we were going to have a 2009-2010 season for the Texas Stars, which leads me to this quote from the same source inside the organization as before:
"I am more confident now that we will have a team next year than I was when this same situation came up about us having a team for [the 2009-2010] season."The bottom line here is that the franchise has been successful despite all the potential obstacles. They have been successful at the box office, with corporate partnerships, and on the ice. It would be the biggest failure in the history of Austin sports if the Stars did not stay in Cedar Park next year. It just won't happen.