Big financial losses could force the Calgary Roughnecks to move into cheaper digs next season.
Roughnecks majority owner Brad Banister confirmed yesterday the National Lacrosse League team might leave the 17,000-seat Pengrowth Saddledome for the smaller and less swanky Stampede Corral unless he can secure a better deal from the Calgary Flames, the Saddledome\'s landlords.
The team\'s current, two-year lease expires after this season.
A source close to the Roughnecks said the team stands to lose around $1 million this campaign, despite healthy turnouts to see the second-year franchise.
\"It\'s a viable possibility,\" Banister said of moving into the 7,500-seat Corral.
\"But right now, we\'re still in this lease. I signed it, my fault.
\"But now I\'m learning more and more and I learned I probably didn\'t do a good deal.\"
Over the first five home games of the year, Calgary averaged 10,977 fans, behind only Toronto (16,543), Colorado (16,147) and Philadelphia (13,704) in the 12-team NLL.
Calgary\'s game high came against Vancouver Jan. 31 with 11,659 paid tickets. The Riggers\' 12-8 win over New York Sunday was the second-biggest crowd of the year at 11,596.
But Banister said big crowds don\'t necessarily mean big profits for the Roughnecks, 7-4 on the season and in the hunt for a playoff berth.
\"The way things are working now, yeah, we\'d probably lose money if we had a playoff game,\" he said.
And the Flames would make money? \"Yeah, I\'m sure they would,\" he replied.
Banister said he and the Flames are still in the early stages of negotiating a potential new lease.
\"Right now, we have only three games left in our lease, so it\'s just good business sense to look around,\" said Banister, who declined to divulge specifics about the team\'s financial picture.
\"We want to have a good relationship with the Flames, so it\'s still an ongoing process.\"
Flames president Ken King said he was open to working with the Roughnecks to help work out a new lease that\'s more advantageous to the club.
\"We like the Roughnecks as a tenant,\" said King. \"And we think they\'re a great sport and we\'d certainly be open to any kind of discussion they\'d be interested in having. And we have had some discussions with them already.\"
King said he also understands why Banister is shopping around and doing some price checking.
\"That\'s fair on his part,\" said King. \"I think he has to make his own judgments. But, like I said, we like them and we\'d do what we could to help them out and still have a good commercial agreement.\"
Despite the fact the Corral is essentially an old barn, Banister said the right deal would make it an attractive alternative to the \'Dome.
Banister said he\'s not asking for the world, just changes that will help his team while still providing the Flames with another solid revenue stream as well.
\"The thing that would help me out, without getting into it too deep, is to be able to survive in Calgary,\" said Banister.
\"I don\'t want to go into numbers but we need a different kind of lease; a better-structured lease where we can both (Roughnecks and Flames) survive.
\"I\'d like to pay less and get (a percentage of the) concessions.\"