SPRINGFIELD, MA. – The AHL will stay in Springfield for the 2016-2017 season. The move comes after a group of local investors from Springfield purchased the Portland Pirates. The move was approved by the AHL’s Board Of Governors last month. You may recall that in May, the Springfield Falcons were purchased by the Arizona Coyotes and are currently in the process of moving to Tucson, AZ, where they will open play this season.
Last week, the team announced that Nathan Costa will be the team’s Executive Vice President and Bruce Landon will serve as a consultant. Costa is a Springfield, MA native and has worked in the American Hockey League for the last 6 years. For him to work for the new AHL franchise is a dream come true.
“When the opportunity came about that we were going to get a hockey team back here in Springfield and that I would have a chance to be apart of it. It was something I always dreamed of. To have the opportunity to come in and to run the business and work towards filling that building (MassMutual Center). I couldn’t be more excited and I can’t wait to get started here,” Costa said.
With the AHL being a charter city here in Springfield, it was crucially important that an AHL franchise stayed in the City Of Springfield. When the opportunity arose, it was something Costa couldn’t pass up.
“It (the opportunity) came out of complete nowhere to me not being on the inside and then having a chance to talk with Mr. Picknelly and the ownership group that had been assembled. It was something from day one after speaking to them that I wanted to be apart of,” Costa said.
Landon has been involved with hockey in the City Of Springfield for many years. Costa had the chance to work with Landon when he worked in the AHL office.
“His knowledge and his expertise is going to be invaluable coupled with what I am going to bring to the table from a sales and marketing perspective. I’ve got a ton of respect for Bruce and it is great to have him on board,” Costa said.
Dennis Murphy, spokesperson for the ownership group of the new franchise, said of Landon “I don’t think anyone needs to explain the value of Bruce Landon. It was clear to us early on that we had to have Bruce at the table with us,” Murphy said.
The new ownership group is aware of the challenges in front of them. Last season, the Falcons were ranked last in attendance. Murphy says the group feels confident about the future of the new franchise.
Murphy says there is a lot of development going in downtown Springfield, which being spear-headed by MGM, who are in the process of building a $950 million dollar casino in the downtown area. While MGM Is not part of the ownership group, the team ownership group has assurances from MGM that they will be a strong and powerful marketing partner.
From a sales and marketing perspective, Costa understands the challenge they have in front of them. The opportunities to connect with the local community to become the fabric of Springfield. Not only to grow the sport but hope to gain fans and people that may have not been a hockey fan before.
“Getting the local community involved. Getting the schools involved. Getting local non-profits involved and developing true partnerships with these entities. I think the sky’s the limit,” Costa said.
The branding opportunities that this team will have with the different entities around the Massmutual Center will also help supplement the intense sales group force that Costa has planned to get out into the marketplace.
“The teams that are having success and the ones that are filling the building,” Costa said. “They’re focused on getting new fans involved and growing their fan base through group ticket sales and showing great value and providing experience that they can’t get anywhere else. You can’t go to a Boston Bruins game and get to line up on the blueline with the players. You can’t get to lead out the team with the team flag onto the ice, but, we want to provide experiences like that kind of stuff to our local fans and to our local children and hopefully create fans for life and kids that want to come out and experience hockey here in Springfield.” Costa said.
The new AHL team in the City Of Springfield will be affiliated with the Florida Panthers. Geordie Kinnear will serve as the new team head coach, after a successful stint with the Charlotte Checkers.
The team name will be announced tomorrow, while the AHL 2016-2017 schedule will be released at a later date.