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City Snapshot: How Hamilton Stacks Up

TSN/Globe and Mail

7/7/2010 9:45:30 AM

Previous NHL history: Hamilton Tigers (1919-25) moved to become the New York Americans.

Potential Owner: Jim Balsillie, the RIM billionaire has tried to buy the Pittsburgh Penguins, Nashville Predators, and Phoenix Coyotes with an eye to relocation in Hamilton.

Demographic snapshot

Metro Population: 728,000. But Copps Coliseum sits a short drive from cities such as Kitchener-Waterloo, Guelph, Oakville, Burlington and St. Catharines, easily boosting potential market to over 3 million.

Median Household income: $64,377 (Canadian Average $59,090)

Average Household disposable income: $59,339 (Canadian Average $55,541)

Household net worth: $396,014 (Canadian Average $351,282)

Percentage of population aged 25-39: 19 per cent (Canadian Average 20 per cent)

Index for watching NHL Hockey on Television: 105 (Canadian average 100)

Economic snapshot

Number of Head offices: 89

Unemployment rate:  7.8 per cent  (Canadian average 8.1)

Number of businesses with 100+ employees: 354

Number of businesses with $20+ million in sales: 491

Number of businesses with 100+ employees and $20+ million in sales: 215

Population rate of growth: 1 per cent

GDP Rate of Growth: 3.3 per cent

Retail Sales: 7.9 Billion

Sports Competition in market: Hamilton Tiger-Cats

Arena: Copps Coliseum, built in 1985, seats 17,300 with minimal luxury suites. Would require at least $100 million in renovations to reach NHL standards.

Has Going For It: With a diversifying economy and bright economic forecast, the City of Hamilton is projecting strong growth in the years ahead. And immediate area surrounding Hamilton easily triples its potential market, giving it more than enough population and wealth to support an NHL hockey. There's already an arena and a potential owner in waiting.

Has Going Against It: The NHL just isn't interested. Speculation is that may have something to do with appeasing the wishes of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Buffalo Sabres. Regardless, the league, despite claiming in court that Hamilton would be its fifth most valuable franchsie, says it hasn't studied the market and isn't planning to. Copps Coliseum would require at least $100 million in renovation to host an NHL team. Potential owner Jim Balsillie has been turned down as a suitable owner by the NHL.

What they're saying: "I believe that this would in fact be a Southern Ontario team. Not just a Hamilton team, we would draw from afar. When you take a look at who's buying corporate boxes and who's putting their money down to purchase season tickets, look at the geographic map, they are coming from all over Southern Ontario." - Terry Whitehead, Hamilton City Councillor.

What Gary Bettman says:  "The notion that, well there's an old building there, that happens to be there, let's go, I don't think that's the way you put your franchises on the ground."

Professor Norm O'Reilly's Scorecard for Hamilton

Market Attractiveness

Economy: B

Demographics: B

Market Size: A+

Corporate Presence: B+

Overall Score for Market Attractiveness: A-

Franchise Viability

Arena and Location: C

Competition and Barriers to Entry: D-

Potential Owner (Jim Balsillie): A

Final Grade: D+

What Norm O'Reilly says: "If you look at the market, it's very strong, extremely supportive of hockey, no doubting it at all. There's a facility there that we know needs some renovations. The challenge becomes that you have two other franchises in the market. You have Buffalo and the Leafs. So it becomes a political thing."

Note: Norm O'Reilly's evaluations are based on his own background and knowledge of the subject, transcripts of interviews done by TSN/Globe and Mail for this series and data collected from various sources including Statistics Canada, the Conference Board of Canada, Environics Analytics, IMI and Harris-Decima.