When Peter Karmanos Jr. brought the Carolina Hurricanes to North Carolina in 1997, he had a vision: that hockey could and would work in Raleigh and the state as a whole.
Fourteen years, a Stanley Cup, much on- and off-ice success, a draft and an All-Star Game later, that vision is alive and well. It was solidified yesterday with 10 new investors in the franchise, 9 of which are based locally in North Carolina.
“It’s a big day as far as the Hurricanes organization is concerned because we’ve gotten investors in the team that are from the Triangle,” Karmanos told the media today. “And I can’t tell you how important I think that is to the future of the organization.”
Among the new eight publicized ownership partners are Michael Kahn – owner of the Charlotte Checkers – Capitol Broadcasting Company, Inc. (James Goodmon, A.J. Fletcher Foundation) and Jim Rutherford – president and general manager of the Hurricanes. Two investing groups chose to keep their partnerships private.
“Each one involved is a hockey fan, and each has opinions, and we are willing to listen to those,” Karmanos said.
Since the passing of his investment partner Thomas Thewes in 2008, Karmanos has sought local investors for a minority share of the franchise.
“It’s a real leap of faith for people to invest in the team and take a minority interest,” he said. “It’s very encouraging that they thought enough of the Hurricanes and thought enough of our organization to make those kinds of investments.”
Karmanos added that over the next year, he’d like to get another $20 million in investment from other local groups, something that should be relatively easy now considering the solid local foundation that has been built.
“I think it’s important for a sports team to be owned by local people,” he said. “So, when the day comes that I’m going to get out of the business, we’ll have lots of people that have direct experience and actually live here.”
Entrusting a minority share in the team to state- and Triangle-based investors shows Karmanos’ commitment to the area, both now and in the years to come.
“To have the Triangle grow 42 percent from 2000 to 2010 and have forecasted growth rates from 2010 to 2030 of 80 percent, that helps make this a stable market,” he said.
With these new shareholders, Karmanos said he would like to increase the Hurricanes’ season ticket base by three to four thousand. He said that in this age where everyone schedules their lives, it’s hard to draw an impactful walk-up crowd, especially in the middle of the week.
He also believes his new group of investors can increase revenue brought in from advertising.
“I think this group of people alone could be responsible for helping increase our revenues by $5 to $10 million a year, and I’m going to call on them vigorously to do that,” he said.
What he said he wouldn’t do was spend that potential extra money on high-dollar players. Karmanos said that if there was a player available that would guarantee the team wins, he would spend the money. But, don’t look for changes to the roster anytime soon.
“We’re just not going to be stupid about how you spend the money,” he said. “Every owner has to understand that they can’t go in there and just throw money around and automatically win and automatically build a strong franchise.”
Karmanos also touched on the performance of the Canes so far this season. He said that if you take the overtime losses and move them into the win column - not a far stretch considering the chances the team has had to win those games - they would be sitting even better in the standings at this point.
"Paul [Maurice] and his staff are as good a coaching organization as anybody in the league, so I’m very happy with them," he said. "I’m very happy with the way our young players are developing. Our goalie, I think, is very underrated. He’s one of the best, if not the best goalie in the league, especially once we get into the playoffs."
Securing local investments ensures the health of the franchise in the community for years to come, building on what already has become a strong foundation in the team’s last 14 years in the state.
“I think overwhelmingly it’s community support and showing how much they believe the Hurricanes are important to the Triangle area,” Karmanos said.