The Peoria Rivermen could be gone after this season is over, based on source reports from the AHL and NHL that have been circulating since late January.
"Nothing is settled (about Peoria's future). Nothing is decided. The best answer right now is a bit in limbo," Blues chief operating officer Bruce Affleck said Monday, March 18. "I know the rumors are out there and I can’t completely squash them."
LINK to PJStar article about Rivs' possible move out of Peoria.
The bottom line, is the bottom line in this case. Per the article:
The parent club St. Louis Blues own the Rivermen. The Peoria franchise was included as part of the NHL team’s purchase by St. Louis beer distributor Tom Stillman last year.
The word circulating in hockey circles is that Stillman might not want to write an annual check to fund an AHL farm team. He is said to be in talks to sell the Rivermen to the Vancouver Canucks, who would in turn move Peoria’s team to Abbotsford, B.C.
Abbotsford presently is home to an AHL farm team owned by Calgary. But in the primary rumor, Calgary moves its AHL team to Utica, N.Y., Tulsa, Okla., or other places.
Vancouver would then buy the Rivermen from the Blues and moves them there. The Blues then would sign with the Chicago Wolves to serve as parent club there.
The Wolves presently are AHL farm club to Vancouver. Their multiyear affilation deal expires at the end of this season.
The article also lists three potential destinations for the Blues' AHL franchise if it is pulled out of Peoria, but the rights to the franchise are still retained by the Blues. The possible destinations are Kansas City, Indianapolis, and Evansville, Indiana.
All three cities are larger markets than Peoria, two of them by a substantial margin. With an estimated 2011 population of 827,600 souls, Indianapolis is the 12th largest city in the United States, while Kansas City checks in at No. 37 with an estimated 2011 population of 436,200. Evansville also hits the six-figure mark with an estimated 2011 population of 117,800.
Peoria, by contrast, has a population of about 112,500.
Both Kansas City (NFL Chiefs, MLB Royals) and Indianapolis (NFL Colts, NBA Pacers) are considered "major-league" markets. Evansville and Peoria... not so much.
In terms of market size, Peoria and Evansville are very comparable, and the two cities share other common features as well. Both cities are major river ports on one of America's historic rivers, both cities host successful Division I college basketball programs (The Bradley University Braves in Peoria, and the University of Evansville's Purple Aces), and both are former manufacturing meccas that have fallen on difficult times. The major difference between Peoria and Evansville, as hockey markets, is in the quality of their facilities.
Carver Arena was built in 1982, and has no revenue-generating skyboxes or suite-level seating from which guests can watch the action live. The Ford Center also has no skyboxes, but is brand new (opened in November of 2011), with all the bells and whistles for guests -- including more restrooms, more concession stands, a hospitality room, a VIP suite with a view of the ice, and a full-service bar not unlike Top Shelf at the Scottrade Center.
The possible tragedy of this situation for folks in Peoria, is that the Blues are on the brink of assigning more, and more high-quality, young talent to their AHL farm club next year than they have ever done before.
We will stay on top of this story as it develops, but in the meantime, let's hear from fans of the Blues and "Game Time." What do you think the Blues should do in regards to their AHL affiliate? Respond in the poll below, and in the Comments.