There haven’t been any specific rumors of the Blue Jackets’ pending doom/relocation to Quebec City, but just in case you were getting worried about the franchise’s future: don’t. Despite the losses and despite the questionable front office of the team, Franklin County, Ohio has agreed on a purchase agreement that will enable the Blue Jackets to stay in Columbus at least until 2039. The funds have been raised via county and city casino revenue, so taxpayer dollars won’t specifically be used (are you listening, city of Glendale?). According to the Columbus Dispatch, here’s how it’s set up to work:
With maintenance, operating and debt service costs, arena ownership is expected to cost the city and county more than $250 million through 2039.
The deal is expected to save the struggling Blue Jackets $9.5 million per year through a rent-free lease with the authority. Nationwide, the former majority owner of the arena, agreed to invest $52 million in the Blue Jackets to take a 30 percent ownership interest in the team. It also will pay the team $28.5 million over 10 years for naming rights to the arena.
Honestly, I don’t think that you can get more cost efficient than that. A team losing money gets to save some, you’re not using taxpayer funds, you have a $52 million investment in the worst team in the NHL this season, and the team seems to be staying put.
Now, it’s worth noting that there’s a way for the Jackets to skip town before 2039 — they just have pay $39 million in damages. And while $39 million isn’t peanuts, if Columbus keeps hemorrhaging money, it might become a price worth paying to move to a more profitable market.
As we saw with the Thrashers, if someone wants a team badly enough they’ll pay the extra fees. True North Sports and Entertainment paid the NHL an extra $60 million relocation fee to get hockey back in Winnipeg. If a big enough company shows up to whisk the Blue Jackets away, it can still happen.