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Column: Questions, suggestions about bringing pro sports to area

A group of stalwart high schoolers presented a plan to the Fort Smith Board of Directors study session to bring a professional hockey team to Downtown Fort Smith.

Not to chide the time, energy and efforts into, but Fort Smith really doesn’t need a professional hockey team.

I made a comment similar to that online and was basically accused of being narrow minded.

I don’t know all the particulars of the study conducted by the students. I’m not sure if it covers where the proposed arena will sit, what changes to the infrastructure will have to be made (who will foot the bill for that), dealing with traffic issues or where to park the vehicles for all those attending an event.

Granted the story I read really didn’t do the kid’s work any justice. Just a few graphs and BAM! that was it. In a conversation with the Wife Thursday night, apparently she came across a more detailed account. The crew contacted all the professional sports organizations to learn about the costs to gain a franchise.

From those few graphs it was determined that it would cost about $450 million to build the arena. There’s no mention of the cost it would take to bring in an NHL franchise, or to start a new one. Found one article that showed NHL franchises going for $80 million alone back in 2000. (In comparison to other pro leagues: MLB, $130 million; NFL, $700; NBA, $125. Saw in a recent article that MLS franchise fee is around $20 million.

I would like to see what the rationale was to go with hockey in comparison to the pro teams and why a pro team and not a minor league team, which would have been cheaper (to purchase a franchise and building a small facility).

One of the questions I have would be about the market size. Sports franchises are rather picky and love lucrative television markets. Fort Smith, alone, isn’t a big one. Even if you were to add Northwest Arkansas and some of the central parts of the state and eastern Oklahoma, it still wouldn’t be a big market.

Fort Smith would have been better served to have had a minor league baseball team a long time ago, there’s a great little stadium near downtown that needs some love and care. Never mind, that was torn down. Thanks, Fort Smith.

Still a minor league baseball team called either Fort Smith Marshals or the River Valley Mudbats, would be better. However, there’s already a team up in Northwest Arkansas, in a much bigger market than in the River Valley. The stadium would have limited use (baseball only).

However, I think Fort Smith and the River Valley would do better if it had a minor league soccer team.

Why? Well, Tulsa is getting one, so it could create an intermediate local rivalry almost immediately if both teams were in the same league.

Second, a minor league soccer field would be great for the area. The arena needs to seat about 10,000, which would make it bigger than the two other stadiums in Fort Smith.

It could be designed that it has a permanent stage at one end to host concerts (there are some soccer stadiums in the U.S. that are designed that way). The field could potentially be utilized by UAFS if it expands to a soccer program.

Maybe the field could be converted into a football field once a year for the annual Battle of Rogers Avenue event.

Not to mention the use by local soccer groups to perhaps use the field for their big events.

To me, a minor league soccer field seems to have more utility than ice skating/hockey arena. The cost could be shared by the city, the school district, UAFS and the owners of the team.

With hockey, that could open up youth leagues for both boys and girls, in addition to facility use for ice skating.

The Wife said that she would just like to go ice skating. So, that pretty much trumps all my arguments.

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