Thursday, December 18, 2014

Oklahoma City Barons to Cease Operations at End of Season

Former Texas Stars Richard Bachman (Credit: Steven Christy)
What had been a whisper in the offseason grew into a roar today as one source reported and the Oilers later confirmed that the Oklahoma City Barons would cease operations at the end of the season and relocate to an as-yet unknown location. This appears to be the first domino in the long-rumoured AHL western expansion. Sources told Darren Dreger that the AHL is expecting to debut a western division in 2015 which would feature Edmonton's AHL affiliate along with affiliates of Calgary, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim.

The Barons have been in the league for five years, joining in 2010-11, and have moved with the San Antonio Rampage and Texas Stars to whatever division the AHL created for them, whether South or West.

Bob Funk, CEO of Prodigal, which operates the Barons, said the decision was "business-driven."

"Without a more equitable financial agreement with economic terms to provide the best opportunity for sustained success, we can no longer justify additional investments in the operations without higher returns."

Prodigal began operating a USL Pro level soccer team in Oklahoma City last year. They operated the Barons on a lease from the Oilers, who actually own the franchise.

Oilers President and COO Patrick LaForge told CHED in Edmonton that Prodigal was being forced to make a decision in a window that opened in November and closed at the end of the year. They had to either end their lease with the Cox Convention Center or re-up on a ten-year lease. They made the decision to pull the plug.

After losing local rival Houston after 2013, the Texas Stars lose another local trip, putting San Antonio on an island in Texas with the Dallas affiliate.

At the Stars' sale press conference earlier today, Jim Lites indicated he thinks the Oilers "would be delighted to go to Houston," saying that there should be a facility just like the Cedar Park Center built in the city of Houston or a community nearby to hold an AHL club again.

"We like OKC, but that's a long trip," he added. "We'd be much more excited about a team in Houston because you can play weekend games on the road because you avoid the 7-hour bus ride."

That, of course, is no salve to dedicated Oklahoma City fans who found out today that they will not be able to watch AHL hockey in their hometown. Further, many good hockey people will be without jobs come this summer. This is obviously a dark day for the American Hockey League fans on the I-35 corridor.

It can be reasonably assumed that hockey will return to Oklahoma City some day. With Wichita, Allen, Tulsa and Missouri all in close proximity, it makes a lot of sense to see an ECHL club in OKC sooner rather than later.

12 comments:

  1. What do you think the chances are Houston gets an AHL franchise within the next couple years? Lites sounds really excited about the possibility, could he drive discussion with AHL movers and shakers for that?

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    1. Definitely possible. Houston has too many positives going for it to not get a team soon. They just need an arena.

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    3. It certainly won't be the Barons. The only hope would be Calgary building an arena in Sugar Land or Pearland. It has to be outside Harris County since it is illegal to build a competitive facility inside the county. Calgary's lease in Adirondack expires in 2017. I think the chances of this actually happening is remote.

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    4. Can you expand on the 'illegal' comment?

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    5. The enabling legislation which made the Toyota Center a reality made it illegal to build a competing facility within the jurisdiction of the Houston Sports Authority, which is Harris County and the parts of Houston not in Harris County.

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  2. Bummer....enough morning.

    Think we can work some in-season trades for unhappy/disgruntle due to instability, OKC players

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  3. San Jose? The city is crazy for the Sharks, but I am not so sure they have the appetite for a minor league team. Very interesting.

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  4. Article on Edmonton Sun website talks about AHL Okla City Barons franchise moving to Bakersfield and becoming the Bakersfield Condors.

    It then goes on to mention this: "The Oilers ECHL club will now need a home. The ECHL just moved into Wichita and Tulsa, much better rivals than Texas teams from San Antonio and Austin in the AHL.

    The OKC Barons may live again."

    So, who knows....maybe they come back as an ECHL team.

    http://www.edmontonsun.com/2014/12/18/with-no-okc-barons-next-year-oilers-will-likely-move-ahl-team-to-bakersfield

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    1. But, if Prodigal can't afford to operate an AHL team with what the Oil will give them plus gate, how would an ECHL team work?

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    2. ECHL teams don't cost as much to run as AHL teams.

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