Local News

Vote in Conn. Clears Way for Hurricanes to...

Posted May 7, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— There's a hurricane warning in the Triangle with word that the Carolina Hurricanes will be blowing into town sooner rather than later.

The Connecticut Development Authority approved a $21.7 million early exit fee for Whalers owner Peter Karmanos, releasing the National Hockey League team one year early from its Hartford Civic Center lease. That means a major hurdle has been cleared to allow the team, to be renamed the Carolina Hurricanes, to start playing in its interim home in Greensboro next year.

Under the agreement, the Whalers must pay $5 million by July 1. The rest of the amount would be paid in annual installments by 2012. Including interest, the Whalers would be paying $21.7 million. The team also agreed not to pursue legal action regarding a television contract, essentially forgiving an additional $1 million. The possibility that the lease-exit amount may have been doubled to more than $40 million had threatened to stall plans to move the team to Greensboro for two years while an arena is built in 1999.

The relocation still must be approved by the National Hockey League's board of governors. That vote is expect next month.

Team General Manager Jim Rutherford told WRAL-TV5'sMark RobertsWednesday that, with that vote out of the way, he'll open the offices of the Carolina Hurricanes next week. That means about 20 new jobs for the area. When Raleigh's new arena opens in two years and the team comes home, there will be another 300 jobs created there.

Rutherford and Coach Paul Maurice toured commercial properties Wednesday looking for an office site. While they looked at real estate, others looked at the economic impact of having the team here.

David Heinl is president of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau. He held a similar post in Hartford in the 1970's when the Whalers first moved there. He said the team had a positive effect on the economy.

Dr. Mike Walden is not a hockey expert, but he has studied the economy of sports. He says big league teams don't necessarily bring in big league money.

Rutherford says not even analysts know what will happen, but that some good things are guaranteed.

The team itself will pay state and local taxes and the players, several of whom earn seven-figure salaries, will pay plenty of income tax.