Saturday, February 15, 2003


Ain't irony a bitch? Even as the Ice Bats ponder playoff life without a building, the Express ask Round Rock for $1.8 million to expand the stadium and take their team to AAA.

A quote from Adam Zuvanich's Statesman piece:

The Ice Bats... close the regular season on March 15, but the Star of Texas Fair and Rodeo will have exclusive rights to the Expo Center through April 9. The CHL playoffs could last until May, giving Austin an outside chance of finishing its season in the Expo Center. A professional wrestling show is scheduled for April 12 at the Expo Center, but if the event is canceled and arena crews can lay ice quickly, the Bats might be able to return to the Bat Cave.
So already, things are looking up. An "outside chance" is mentioned. Plus, there's the suggestion that the wrestling plans could change.

Now, the rodeo ends April 5, so why do they have the building until April 9? Is it just because it takes three-four days to get the dirt and gear out, and there's no reason for the rodeo people to accelerate the timetable and take on added labor costs to do so? 'Cause it seems to me you can have a wrestling show on a floor laid over ice -- the trick is to get the ice made and perfect before the 12th. Last year the rodeo ended on a Saturday and the ice was ready to go on the following Saturday (Game 1 of the first-round series was played the night before in San Antonio).

So I wonder, is there a way to speed things up and get the Bats in there on April 11, accomodate the wrestling, then play again on the 13th? Could the team or league just buy off the wrestling promoter? Better yet, let them set up the ring in the parking lot, have matches before and after the game and feature them between-periods. If Ryan Pisiak is one of the grapplers, all the better.

Anyway, in discussing all this with Ice Bats season ticketholder Mike Rice, who was in the rodeo long before he ever saw a hockey game, he came up with a solution: "Get The Dirt Out Day." It takes three days for the rodeo to clear the Expo? Not if a few dozen Bats fans show up Monday, ready to work.

Everybody mocked that line, "as a season ticket holder, you're not just part of the crowd, you're part of the team." Here's a way to really make it so, if it gets the Bats back in the place where they belong.

Meanwhile, I gotta respond to this post.

Fort Worth's Reunion game against the Outlaws was one of the first things I thought of when I heard about the Chaparral deal (though IIRC, the Brahmas also played a game at Blue Line once, or maybe that was the Fire). But that was just one game. The Bs would not have been able to play all of their games at Reunion, what with the primary tenant being in the middle of its Stanley Cup run. The building wouldn't have been available, and even if it was, the organization probably wouldn't have been inclined to pay for it, especially if it meant putting down a deposit for dates that weren't guaranteed to happen (as turned out to be the case -- the Brahmas won that great OT game at Reunion, but not the semifinal series).

Andy Moog's relationship with the Stars was a crucial factor for Fort Worth. And Reunion already had ice, a huge consideration both logistically and financially. The only analogous venue in Austin, the Erwin Center, is run by a University that wouldn't be looking to do the Bats any favors. It would cost a ton and has no ice pre-made.

And I mean c'mon, gimme a break, most of the Brahmas fans -- if not you personally -- spent all year complaining about your owner's handpicked coach: the way he treated fans, the way he treated players, his demeanor in general.

Point being, that situation doesn't reflect on the "class" of Brahmas ownership, and this one doesn't reflect on John McVaney. This was just a bad decision brought on by a nearly unworkable situation. It doesn't automatically erase all the good things the organization has done over the last four years. Is there room for improvement? Yeah. Are the Bats underachieving as a business at the moment? Yeah. But it's still good hockey and good people. Most of the folks sending angry e-mails still realize that.

Don't get me wrong, IF the Bats make the finals and IF they still end up at Chaparral it would be a low moment for the franchise. But it wouldn't be the lowest (see everything that happened between Jim Burton's firing and McVaney's purchase of the team). And it won't change the fact that Austin's fans are lucky.

They don't have the worst record in the league like Fort Worth. They've got a great coach who they are totally behind, unlike San Angelo. The owner isn't bankrupt and corrupt, unlike El Paso. And neither bad attendance nor the team's relationship with Travis County can compare to the horrible stuff the Louisiana Ice Gators are going through (Average attendance in 1997: 9,713. This year: 2,460. And yeah, of course the CHL is interested, though I think we need to be cautious about the ECHL cast-offs, how many "rehab markets" does one league need? Meaning, we already have some of our own).
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