The Hartford Whalers:
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The Whalers: News and Updates

News and Updates:

Plans Shown For Adriaen's Latest Landing 
After months of back-room planning, corporate panhandling and more twists than a tornado, a revised Adriaen's Landing plan was shown to the public Tuesday. 

City residents saw plans for a 700-room hotel with a lobby spilling out onto a riverwalk; a ``town square'' filled with cafes, stores and outdoor seating; a ``Restaurant Row'' on Arch Street; and a convention center with a rooftop ballroom and a sweeping view of the river. 

They saw a lot of concrete; even after a proposed giant football stadium was exiled across the river to East Hartford. 

Many of the 100 or so residents who attended the meeting, called to get community input, were struck by the sheer size of what is planned for the 33-acre riverfront site. 

``This is the first I've seen this version,'' said Bernadine Silvers, the head of a neighborhood group studying the latest architect renderings. 

Planners said the latest renderings were just that, and they expect many more ``unveilings'' before concrete is poured. 

Silvers said removing the football arena from the plan would defuse much of the opposition to the whole development project - at least in its latest incarnation. Only a half-dozen people spoke up about the plan Tuesday, and the meeting ended an hour early. 

``The stadium would have interfered too much with our quality of life, and made Columbus Boulevard too congested,'' Silvers said. 

Others raised concerns ranging from increased traffic and air pollution to questions about how contaminated soil will be excavated and transported. 

The ``scoping'' meeting is a requirement of state and federal environmentnal laws, and the comments received will be addressed in an impact study draft that will be issued in the spring. 

Still, some residents said it was difficult to appraise the effect of a project that is very much a work in progress. 

``This wasnt what they brought to us,'' said Cherrille Howard, a neighborhood resident. ``This is a totally different plan.'' 

Howard and others received a handout that provided statistics for a project with a 40,000-seat football stadium, a sketch that included a 20,000-seat arena, and appeals from officials and designers to pretty much disregard the details. 

``A project this size,'' said Gregory Cranford, the lead architect, ``does not spring forth fully formed.'' 

Dr. Mark Mitchell of the Hartford Environmental Justice Network, wondered why the results of the soil tests have not been released to the public. 

Thomas F. Stark, an environmental consultant who has been doing the soil borings, said the results have first been given to the property owners. 

But he said the latest tests have not revealed anything that was unexpected for a site long used for industry. 

``It's just typical urban fill,'' he said. ``There's no Love Canal here.'' 

Carolina Hurricanes Blown Off Course By Financial Troubles
By Barry M. Bloom
Carolina Hurricanes Blown Off Course By Financial Troubles 

Raleigh, North Carolina, Nov. 16 (Bloomberg) -- Carolina
Hurricanes owner Peter Karmanos said his National Hockey League
team was driven south from Hartford, Connecticut, by a governor
who didn't care about the sport. 

Two-and-a-half years later, the franchise once known as the
Hartford Whalers is still heading south financially. 

Now, with losses since the move having exceeded $75.5
million, the franchise is at the crossroads. To break even in a
new yet-to-be-named arena in Raleigh, North Carolina, the
Hurricanes must average 15,000 people a game. The problem is,
they've sold just 6,000 season tickets and attendance is falling.
If the red ink continues, Karmanos said he would slash the team's
$28 million player payroll.
``When you look at it right now, it's scary how bad it could
be in two or three years,'' said Dean Bonham, a Denver-based
sports-franchise consultant. 

The agent for Carolina's former captain, Keith Primeau,
thinks it's bad enough already. Primeau, an unsigned restricted
free agent who had 26 goals and 63 points last season, wants $4
million a year, $1 million more than Karmanos has offered.
Primeau says he'll continue to sit until he's traded.
``To me, they've already made a decision that this isn't
going to work down there,'' said Don Reynolds, Primeau's agent.
And today, saying it was necessary to restructure the
organization, Karmanos accepted the resignation of the team's
president, Dean Jordan, who hadn't even been in the position for
two years. 

The move to North Carolina, where a state-of-the-art NHL
arena wasn't nearly ready, was borne in acrimony. Even now, the
heated feelings of the 1997 departure from Hartford have yet to
``The reason the Hartford Whalers are gone has nothing to do
with the owner and everything to do with the governor who didn't
understand the sport,'' Karmanos said. ``He just absolutely
stonewalled any effort to keep the team there.'' 

Asking for More 

Gov. John Rowland blames Karmanos, the 56-year-old chairman
of Compuware Corp., a company he helped found in 1973. Karmanos
is co-owner of the hockey franchise but speaks for the team as
the representative to the NHL's Board of Governors.
``Every time we gave the Whalers what they wanted, they'd
come back to the table and ask for something more,'' said Dean
Pagani, a spokesman for Rowland. 

Connecticut offered to build a $145 million arena in
Hartford at a cost to the club of $2.5 million a season in rent
and a 10-percent surcharge on tickets. 

The Whalers would have operated the arena and received all
revenue not related to college basketball. The state offered a 20-
year agreement that guaranteed about $45 million a year in arena
revenue, including the sale of 80 luxury suites. 

State and local officials also agreed to underwrite $20.5
million in losses for the team to cover the two seasons it would
take to build the arena. 

Bleeding Money 

It wasn't enough for Karmanos. He demanded a rent-free
building at taxpayer expense with all revenue going to the
Whalers, no ticket surcharge and a 20-year lease with the option
to terminate after 10 years under certain conditions.
``We weren't looking to make a fortune, but we were bleeding
red ink,'' he said, noting that Rowland later offered to build a
rent-free stadium in a failed effort to lure the National
Football League's New England Patriots down from Boston. `If the
governor had offered us a similar deal we would've been in
seventh heaven.'' 

The agreement Karmanos got in North Carolina, though, wasn't
much better than Connecticut's final offer. 

The team invested about $40 million in the new $154 million
arena in Raleigh and will pay $3 million in annual rent for the
next 20 years, Karmanos said. The arena has just 61 suites, four
of which aren't sold. As in the Hartford proposal, the team keeps
all non-college basketball-related revenue. 

Hurricanes officials have also faced the task of selling
hockey in a Sun Belt state where college basketball is king --
North Carolina State sold more than twice the number of season
tickets the Hurricanes did in the same building. 

Television Rights 

The Raleigh-Durham area, meanwhile, is the U.S.'s 29th-
largest television market, slightly smaller than Hartford, the
27th-largest. The Hurricanes' $2 million cable television
contract is just $500,000 more than the agreement the franchise
had in Hartford three years ago.
``It's not the most lucrative TV arrangement in the world,''
said Jordan, whose job it was to market the team to the area's
corporate community. 

It proved to be a tough challenge. Two seasons spent playing
80 miles away in Greensboro, North Carolina, while the Raleigh
arena was under construction only compounded the problems. The
Hurricanes averaged 9,052 people in the minor-league Greensboro
Coliseum, even though the team was successful, winning the
Southeast Division title last season and making the playoffs for
the first time since 1992. 

In contrast, the Whalers, because of a save-the-franchise
ticket selling campaign, averaged 13,657, or 93 percent of
capacity in the Hartford Civic Center during their final season. 

Starting Over 

Even in the new building, where the team has yet to sell the
naming rights, attendance is dwindling. The team averaged 13,803
for its first five games after selling out the Oct. 29 opener at
18,730. But the announced attendance has gone down significantly
every game since to a low of 10,288 last Saturday night.
``It's like we're starting all over again,'' Jordan said
before his departure. 

It's no wonder then that Karmanos admits his team would've
been in about the same financial shape had it remained in
Hartford in a new building.
``The Carolina move was suspect right from the beginning,''
Bonham said. 

For now, the absentee owner -- he still lives in Detroit and
plans to attend just 20 home games this season -- remains
defiant. He recently boasted that after completing estate
planning to leave the team to his children, he can sustain
financial losses for the length of his 20-year lease. 

Others aren't so sure.
``They're paring the payroll down and they'll unload it,''
Reynolds said. ``There's a lot of disappointed people in
Hartford. There really should be a team there still.'' 

Stadium Loss Seen As A Riverfront Gain

This story ran in the Courant November 12, 1999
The new math of Adriaen's Landing, state officials acknowledged Thursday, is that subtraction is addition. 

That's why no one was complaining when Gov. John G. Rowland announced plans to punt a UConn football stadium from Adriaen's Landing to Rentschler Field in East Hartford. 

In the final analysis, a domed riverfront stadium that would be used a dozen or so times a year was not worth its space in the 33-acre footprint of Adriaen's Landing, Rowland and legislative leaders said. 

George David, Chairman of the Board of United Technologies, explains to the press how the decision was made to offer the State of Connecticut a parcel of 75 acres of land to build the new UConn stadium on. Behind him is Gov. John Roland. 

If they needed any convincing, it had come a day earlier, when legislators were shown an artist's rendering of the Adriaen's Landing site, with the imposing stadium. 

``It was like dropping a spaceship onto a scenic New England riverbank,'' said Roy Occhiogrosso, a spokesman for Senate Democrats. 

An open-air stadium will be built on 75 acres donated by United Technologies Corp. at Rentschler Field, and Adriaen's Landing will be retooled for a convention center, hotel and, probably, a new indoor arena to replace the aging Civic Center. 

Supporters said moving the stadium makes the Adriaen's Landing site less cramped and more flexible. A fluid layout and concept are key at a time when Rowland and his hand-picked developers are crisscrossing the country trying to interest retailers and other attractions in the project. 

And then there's the money. Building a 35,000-seat, open-air stadium on the flat, cleaner land of Rentschler Field will shave $80 million to $120 million from the project's cost. That means more cash for housing, retail operations, an expanded convention center and a new civic arena at Hartford's riverfront. 

Asked why the stadium was now seen as a drag on Adriaen's Landing, rather than a key component - as he had insisted throughout efforts to bring the New England Patriots to Hartford - Rowland said simply that things change. 

Specifically, he said, he was persuaded by the developers of the project that the domed stadium was too big and would ``do violence'' to the riverfront site. 

Even city officials agreed. 

``It's a good move,'' Hartford Deputy Mayor Frances Sanchez said. ``We saw that it was too cramped, too packed. I don't think Hartford is losing. We have to think regionally.'' 

Moving the 240-foot-tall stadium also appeals to riverfront advocates, who feared the stadium would block access to a commodity they have spent more than a decade trying to recapture. 

Rowland, burned by boasts of definitiveness during the Patriots imbroglio, took pains Thursday to say the latest version of the project will change many more times before any ribbons are cut. 

``Changes,'' Rowland said, tongue in cheek, from now on will be called ``improvements.'' 

Sources say a retooled Adriaen's Landing - or ``Twain's Landing'' as some are pushing to call it - would still have some kind of sports venue connected to the convention center. That most likely means an arena that would replace the Hartford Civic Center. 

Moving the stadium to Rentschler Field means it can be open for UConn football in time for the 2003 season, Rowland said, and also removes deadline pressure for Adriaen's Landing. 

``The price was right,'' Rowland said, noting that the offer from UTC was unsolicited and occurred during a meeting on another topic. 

Some time pressure remains. Rowland is expected to present a plan of development to the legislature in March, after which lawmakers will decide whether to release $455 million in state funding for the convention center and stadium. 

The money cannot be freed until at least $210 million in private investment is committed for the project - a number that legislative leaders said will not change. The project is expected to include retail components, housing and possibilities such as an expanded Wadsworth Atheneum and ESPN Zone theme restaurant. 

Building a sports venue at Adriaen's would mean a diminished role, or no role, for the Civic Center arena. 

That raises a serious dilemma for the city's redevelopment effort: Moving the basketball/hockey arena from Trumbull Street to Adriaen's Landing might bring vitality to the riverfront at the expense of a section of downtown that seems to work well right now. 

``It sounds like we're duplicating something we already have,'' said Hartford city council Minority Leader John B. O'Connell. 

Whether a riverfront development would threaten the existing entertainment district around the Civic Center depends on which of the two areas would most benefit from the average of 250 events a year a coliseum brings to the city. 

``When we are going through the planning process, we've got to make sure that this is the anchor,'' said Adriaen's Landing developer Len Wolman, of The Waterford Group. 

Clearly, some decisions have to be made soon. 

``The worst thing for us would be uncertainty,'' said Lawrence R. Gottesdiener, the developer charged with redeveloping the failing Civic Center mall, which is attached to the Civic Center coliseum. Northland is proposing a $150 million complex of upscale apartments in two high-rises, and stores. 

``We either need a vibrant coliseum or a demolished coliseum,'' Gottesdiener said. 

Rowland stressed that the proposal for a new indoor arena - to house UConn basketball, minor-league hockey and other events now at the Civic Center - was one of many ideas being considered. 

Nonetheless, he said, ``There are some people saying the Civic Center is obsolete. It may be obsolete whether we do the arena at Adriaen's Landing or not.'' 

SPORTS BUSINESS NEWS---  The End May Indeed Be Near, for the Senators: Despite Rod Bryden's belief that his Ottawa Senators will be given the necessary tax concessions (at least $10 million) before Bryden's early December deadline or the team will be moved and sold, it doesn't appear as if Bryden's sense of confidence is well founded. John Manley, Canada's Industry Minister doesn't see any hope that money will be forthcoming from anywhere. "There aren't other stakeholders that are willing to get involved. I put forward a suggestion that I think could be used to build some base of support, I think we've also got some tax situations, certainly in Ontario, that could be addressed by the provincial and local governments, but there are not too many by the provincial and local governments, but there are not too many things for us to do." That was a statement Manley made outside of Canada's House of Commons on Monday. Bob Chirilli, Ottawa's regional chairman said late last week in the Ottawa Citizen that the team was as good as gone. When the Ottawa Citizen last week reported that Bryden was going to impose a December 7 deadline for tax concessions, or he would put the team on sale, Bryden later denied that there was a deadline and then said until he had more information he wasn't prepared to make any more statements. Memo to Mr. Bryden -- what are you waiting for now. The game appears to be over, game, set and match. It's time to set your deadline, and live with what happens. It's time to see just how serious you are. If this is truly a game of chicken, the ball is now in your court.

And Mr. Bryden Reacts: Rod Bryden has reacted swiftly after John Manley's announcement that he (Manley) didn't believe any government help would be forthcoming for Canada’s NHL teams. Bryden, believes that if the Canadian public rallies behind "the cause", in this case tax concessions for Canada's NHL teams, the tax concessions issue could be settled in the next few weeks. Bryden believes that if the public speaks out on the issue, the politicians will listen. There is support in Ottawa among the citizens of that city for tax concessions. However, it doesn't appear as if support exists anywhere else in Canada. Where exactly Bryden expects to get that support, is anyone's guess. How it could happen in the next few weeks is almost a fairy tale. The question is how serious is Mr. Bryden regarding his threat? Only Mr. Bryden can answer that question, but the real fate of the Ottawa Senators rests in that decision.

ATLANTA (AP) -- Not only are the Atlanta Thrashers the NHL's newest addition, the expansion team also got to open the brand-new $213-million Philips Arena in downtown Atlanta on Saturday night. 

In the facility's first event, the New York Rangers beat the Thrashers, in an exhibition game, 3-2 in overtime before a crowd of 17,552. 

``Their eyes are very big. They're very excited,'' said Thrashers coach Curt Fraser of his team. ``They're like race horses. They're ready to get out of the gate.'' 

The Thrashers play at the arena again on Sunday in another exhibition against the New Jersey Devils before opening the regular season at home on Oct. 2 against New Jersey. The official grand opening of the glittering coliseum will be Thursday with an Elton John concert. 

Because the 18,559-capacity arena for hockey was only about 95 percent complete, about 1,000 seats were not sold. 

It didn't matter to Fraser. 

``The facility is fantastic. I think this is just about the ultimate. Is that saying too much,'' he asked. 

``I haven't seen a building that can come close to this,'' Fraser said. 

Before the game, the Thrashers honored two Cobb County police officers who were killed in July during a standoff at a private residence. An award in the names of officers Stephen Gilner and Steve Reeves will be given to the Thrashers player who gives the most to the community. 

The arena was also pleasing to two season-ticket holders, one of whom had a spot in one of the 90 luxury boxes, stacked atop each other on five levels -- each costing from $135,000 to $225,000. 

``It's so cutting edge, so forward thinking,'' said Paul Ulerich, a club seat season-ticket holder from Atlanta. ``I'm sure it's going to be the envy of venues everywhere. 

``There's so much excitement just waking outside the arena where people are wearing Thrashers T-shirts, Thrashers jerseys and Thrashers hats,'' he said. 

``It's very exciting to see how very much Atlanta has done to welcome hockey back,'' Ulerich said. 

Atlanta's first NHL hockey team -- the Flames -- arrived in 1972-73 and left following the 1979-80 season for Calgary. Both the Flames and the NBA's Atlanta Hawks played at the Omni. 

The arena is a giant upgrade from the Omni, which sat on the same site until it was torn down in 1997. It's uniqueness spread from its large, sweeping roof to the 300-foot-wide A-T-L-A-N-T-A sign at the main entrance. 

The arena is also the new home of the Hawks. 

``I love it. It's incredible. It's beautiful,'' said Ray Biondi of Alpharetta, a season-ticket holder in one of the suites. 

An escalator leads to the ``Thrashers Nest'' and the still-uncompleted ``Philips Experience,'' a monument to the electronics company that reportedly agreed to pay $168 million over 20 years for the naming rights. There are 550 televisions throughout the arena as well as 21 restaurants, many upscale with matching prices. There are also 43 rest rooms, nine locker rooms and an underground basketball court for the Hawks to use as a practice facility. 

The average Thrashers' ticket price is $45, but they do have $10 tickets and although they are nine stories above the ice, the view is not bad. 

In addition, the Thrashers have a spacious locker room and workout area, a state-of-the-art video facility, saunas and steam rooms. 

``Because I'm the sauna king, everyone was betting that I'd be the first one in the sauna, but I haven't been near it yet,'' Thrashers general manager Don Waddell said. 

RALEIGH (AP) -- The Carolina Hurricanes have sold at least 4,000 season tickets for their inaugural season in Raleigh at the new Entertainment and Sports Arena, a team official says. 

Dean Jordan, the chief executive officer of Gale Force Holdings, the Hurricanes' parent company, again declined Thursday to reveal the exact number of tickets sold, but the total could be higher. 

Jordan, who held a similar position with the NHL's Florida Panthers, sold 6,300 season tickets in their inaugural season, 1993-94. Asked if the Hurricanes have sold as many tickets as the Panthers did, Jordan said, ``We're in the ballpark.'' 

Jordan said he's confident the team, which finished last in average attendance in the 28-team league during its first two seasons in Greensboro, won't finish last in season tickets for the 1999-2000 season. 

``We could finish in the top 20 in the NHL in season tickets sold,'' Jordan said. ``I can tell you that we will be many slots from the bottom.'' 

The Hurricanes sold only 3,000 season tickets in 1997-98, the franchise's first season in North Carolina, when the team played at the Greensboro Coliseum. 

The Raleigh arena will seat 18,711 for hockey. Individual-game tickets for Carolina's 41-game home schedule go on sale in late September. Prices range from $17 to $99. 

The Hurricanes will begin the regular season with nine straight road games while final work on the arena is completed before the Oct. 29 home opener against New Jersey. 

Columbia -- Seattle businessman John McCaw wants to sell Orca Sports and Entertainment, the company that owns the NBA's Vancouver Grizzlies, NHL's Canucks and GM Place arena, according to a broadcast report. 

Orca Bay officials didn't immediately return telephone calls Saturday night, although Canucks general manager Brian Burke said news of the possible sale won't impact the hockey team. 

Vancouver Television said sources inside Orca Bay have confirmed McCaw will announce this week his intention to sell all three entities, estimated to have lost millions of dollars over the last year. 

McCaw, who made millions when he sold his cellular telephone company in 1994, was first approached by former Canucks owner Arthur Griffiths about buying a share of the hockey team in the fall of 1993. McCaw eventually bought out Griffiths in 1997. 

McCaw, who rarely gives interviews, sometimes is seen at center court of Grizzlies games or sitting behind the home bench at hockey games, always with a bodyguard nearby. 

It's estimated McCaw has more than $200 million invested in Vancouver sports interests. 

In an interview earlier this year, Steve Bellringer, Orca Bay's president and chief executive officer, said the combined losses of the Canucks, Grizzlies and the arena "will be more than the mid- $20 millions." 

It's also been no secret that McCaw has been looking for a partner to buy into his sports empire while retaining controlling interest. 

Burke refused comment on whether Orca Bay was for sale. 

"Mr. McCaw has been looking for strategic partners for some time," he said. "His plan from the get-go was to bring in a partner but to retain control." 

Burke said the possible pending sale of the hockey team won't disrupt the season. 

"As far as I'm concerned this story doesn't change what Mr. McCaw has been trying to do for some time," he said. "I don't have any cause for concern." 

Last November, Orca Bay officials said the Canucks had lost $68 million over the last three years but McCaw had no intention of selling or moving the team.

Primeau rejects Carolina's 'final offer'
The Associated Press 

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -- All-Star center Keith Primeau, a restricted free agent, has rejected what the Carolina Hurricanes say will be their final contract offer.
      "We offered Keith a longer-term contract for what we think is the best financial offer," general manager Jim Rutherford said Wednesday. "The response was that the offer was not acceptable." 
      Primeau, 27, a nine-year player, was the Hurricanes' leading scorer last season, with 30 goals and 62 points. 
      He reportedly was offered an annual salary below the team-high $5 million being paid center Ron Francis. Primeau was paid $2 million in 1998-99. 
      In 1996, Primeau failed to reach a contract agreement with the Detroit Red Wings, and Detroit traded him to the Hurricanes' predecessor, the Hartford Whalers. 
      Primeau's co-agent, Todd Reynolds, said Primeau could refuse to report to Carolina's training camp Sept. 5 in Fort Myers, Fla. "We have not given that proper consideration yet," he said. 
      Primeau could leave the Hurricanes if they decide to trade him, or if he signs an offer sheet with another NHL club and Carolina chooses not to match it. 
      Rutherford, however, said the Hurricanes would match any offer sheet signed by Primeau. No team has contacted the Hurricanes proposing a trade for Primeau, officials said. 
      "I think it's clear that this isn't a matter of where Keith wants to play. He wants to play here," Rutherford said. "He's the team captain, and he's comfortable playing here."


I am trying to stay
on top of any news
that effects the 
future of hockey in
Hartford, as well as
any news that 
relates to the 
ex-whalers Carolina
Hurricanes, and
possibly news 
pertaining to 
Connecticut as a