June 14, 2011
Flames take ownership of Roughnecks
By IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency
CALGARY - After a decade playing in the Saddledome, the Calgary Roughnecks can truly call the place home now.
The Calgary Flames officially took over the National Lacrosse League franchise Tuesday, buying out owner Brad Banister and moving the operations into the Saddledome.
At the same time of the organisation restructuring, Flames president Ken King promised to build the Riggers their own space within the Dome.
For 10 years, the Riggers used the visiting NHL room as their headquarters. Now they should get their own room.
“It’s going to be tough,” King said. “It may be a temporary fix.
“In the new building (the Flames hope to build), we should have lots of opportunity to house the team properly. We will give them a worthwhile spot and hopefully it can become something more permanent.”
Banister founded the team in 2001 and built a winning product. The team won the Champion’s Cup in 2004 and 2009 and only missed the playoffs in their expansion season.
Off the floor, the team was less successful, as Banister and his group of investors didn’t have the capital to make it grow. With the Flames as landlords, filling the building meant just as much money for the NHL club as it did for the Riggers in terms of parking and concessions.
So when Banister ran into financial difficulty this season, needing the league to step in and help pay the players, it became clear the situation was dire.
“We weren’t in the market for a team,” King said. “Once it was clear that it was us or the team not existing, either moving or folding — it was a difficult situation — it was obvious that we do what we could to help the situation.
“It was tough for Brad. You have a tough schedule you operate under. He didn’t have too many full-time staff. We have the luxury of fully manned marketing, ticketing and building operations staff. It works really well for us.”
Banister hands over the team in great shape on the floor and the team had the best record in the NLL this season.
For the past three seasons, Banister worked as president, general manager and owner. He will help with the transition but essentially walks away from it now and becomes a fan.
“It’s been an emotional day,” Banister said. “It’s calming right now but later on it will kick me in the pants. But the people buying it care about it enough to make this work.
“I only enjoy the games on the road when I’m not in control of what’s going on in the arena. I’m looking forward to sitting in the stands watching with my kids. I’m looking forward to retiring and relaxing and watching.”
The Flames have installed Mike Board as the general manager and Mike Moore as the director of business operations.
Board expects to retain the coaching staff of Dave Pym, Curt Malawsky and Bob McMahon and doesn’t plan on making many changes with the roster.
Security in the financial situation is good news to the players, who worked hard to ignore the problems this season.
“We don’t have to worry about getting paid now,” said original Roughneck Kaleb Toth.
“We know the cheques will be on time. It’s a relief in some aspect. Personally, I knew we were going to get paid. Not knowing was tough for some of the young guys.
“With an ownership group like the Flames, they will take it to the next level. In the NLL, with the team being in control of the building, it’s amazingly successful. I’m looking forward to this next season. It’s an exciting time.”