Last Tuesday a Press Conference was held at Perani Arena in Flint Michigan. During that Press Conference, Rolf Nilson from IMS-USA the company purchasing Perani Arena and Costa Papista who is a consultant working on the purchase and transition publicly stated their desire to bring a USHL franchise to Flint as the Perani Arena main tenant.
Speaking with all persons involved, in particular USHL President and Commissioner Bob Fallen on Wednesday, there is much more to this story.
Commissioner Fallen did confirm that an expansion application had been made for the Flint market but went on to say that the following statement had been provided to IMS-USA and was to be used during the Press Conference;
“Our league regularly receives expressions of interest for expansion from all over the country and we recently received an application from an organization intending to locate a team in Flint,” said USHL President and Commissioner Bob Fallen. “While we are not actively seeking expansion markets for next season we will submit this application to our very diligent and extensive process of evaluation. It should be noted that when it comes to any future expansion, our clear mandate is to seek ownership groups in markets/cities that are capable of securing long-term sustainability and success on and off the ice.”
That statement is in stark contrast to the claim of Mr. Nilson that there was a “90% chance” of USHL approval.
TJHN sources are still reporting, although off the record, that there is support for Flint, but along with support there are concerns about the Flint market and its ability to financially support a USHL team. One source specifically cited the communities inability to support the NAHL at a “respectable level”.
In my conversation with Commissioner Fallen, he made it very clear that this was an expansion application and not a franchise purchase and relocation.
I followed up my conversation with Commissioner Fallen by speaking to Costa Papista directly. Our conversation covered a variety of subjects both on and off the record. The following is a statement issued by Costa on behalf of IMS-USA;
“IMS USA, Inc. is in the process of purchasing Perani Arena in Flint, Michigan (Genesee County). The arena has a capacity of 4,600 for hockey and 6,000 for concerts. We will operate the NAHL team until the end of this season. Next season, our goal is to enhance the level of hockey for the facility and for the Genesee County community. To that end, we have applied for an expansion franchise with the USHL and we have also had serious talks with other high caliber, player development leagues. Having an anchor tenant for the arena in time for the 2015-16 hockey season is our goal.”
TJHN can confirm through multiple sources that the Plymouth Whalers are one of the other options for Perani Arena. One source has also reported that the Saginaw Spirit have already indicated that they would be interested in renewing the Saginaw – Flint hockey rivalry which was once considered one of the best in minor pro circles.
OHL sources are telling TJHN that they do not want to see the Whalers leave Michigan as they see Michigan being critical to exposing players to the OHL product while recruiting.
While there are other options on the table for Perani Arena in 2015, clearly the USHL is the number one choice with the OHL a very close second.
TJHN will update this story as it continues to develop.
Joseph Kolodziej – Publisher