Fort Worth Brahmas hockey team looking for new venue

Posted Thursday, Jun. 20, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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The new owner of the Fort Worth Brahmas hockey team wants to play again in Tarrant County, but needs a new venue suitable for Central Hockey League play, the franchise president said Thursday.

“We have the franchise, we are not folding the franchise,” Mike Barack, who said he is franchise president for the owner, Stuart Fraser, said in an interview. “We suspended operations. Our plan is to maintain the franchise in Tarrant County and hopefully have a new arena to play in down the road.”

The team, which last season played most of its games in the 2,500-seat NYTEX Sports Centre in North Richland Hills and a handful at the Fort Worth Convention Center, wants a 6,000-seat venue like the city-owned one the CHL’s Allen franchise plays in, Barack said.

“It’s an ideal capacity for a team in the CHL,” Barack said.

Ideally, an entity such as a city would build the arena, and the Brahmas would lease it back, Barack said.

“We would love to play in a new venue in the next few years,” Barack said.

The team isn’t interested in an interim situation, such as playing at NYTex until it gets the new arena built, Barack said. “Economically, it is important for us to be in a new venue,” he said.

The Brahmas have been interested in playing at the Will Rogers Coliseum or Fort Worth Convention Center, but there isn’t enough availability for a full season of home games, Barack said. The Convention Center arena also seats more than 20,000 for hockey, too big for the team’s needs.

The team has reverted to the ownership of Fraser, who sold it last year to a group headed by Mike Atkinson.

The Atkinson defaulted on the “purchase price” it owed Fraser at the end of the season, putting the team back in Fraser’s hands, Barack said.

The CHL had issued a brief release several days ago, saying the Brahmas wouldn’t play in the league next season, that the league was looking for a “more suitable venue” for the club to play in, and that the league declared all Brahmas players to be unrestricted free agents.

The CHL’s release did not say the team had changed hands, why the team wasn’t playing next season, whether it was still in business, or why NYTEX wasn’t suitable. CHL representatives did not return calls seeking comment.

The league and the Brahmas’ former owners — Atkinson and Michael Levitz — did not return calls from the Star-Telegram seeking comment.

“The league is working to find a more suitable venue for the [Brahmas] to return to play in 2014-15,” the league said in a release, noting that the Brahmas took a “one-year hiatus” in 2006-07 to switch arenas.

For the past five seasons, the Brahmas, which won the CHL in 2009, played most of their games at NYTEX, including 26 games this past season.

The team also owes Fort Worth and a vendor at the Fort Worth Convention Center more than $8,000 for games it played there, Kirk Slaughter, Fort Worth’s public events director, said.

The team had as many as eight full-time employees, not including players, a former employee said. The team, using different names and playing at various locations, has been part of the local sports scene for more than a decade.

Ken Franklin, a manager at the 8-year-old NYTEX open-to-the-public rink, said NYTEX isn’t clear on why it wasn’t suitable for the Brahmas.

“It’s a very nice facility,” Franklin said. “There’s no reason for anyone not to play here.”

The team was scheduled to play four games in the arena at the Fort Worth Convention Center this season but played only two, Slaughter said.

“There were nights where they had 300 people in the arena; there were nights where they had 3,000,” Slaughter said. “You kind of get lost with a small crowd.”

The Brahmas owe Fort Worth $5,000 for canceling two games and owe a food and beverage concessionaire $3,230, Slaughter said.

“I don’t know whether we’ll get paid or not,” he said.

Franklin said he doesn’t know whether the team was in debt to his facility.

Busy venues

Fraser operated the Brahmas for 14 seasons. The franchise relocated from Fort Worth to North Richland Hills in 2007 and changed its name to the Texas Brahmas.

Ownership’s goal was to increase the number of games in Fort Worth in future seasons, possibly making Will Rogers Coliseum the team’s primary home. But NYTEX would also remain one of the team’s venues, the new ownership team said at the time.

If the league plans to use another venue in Tarrant County, its options will be limited.

Fort Worth has two — the Will Rogers Coliseum and the convention center — and has had conversations with the Brahmas in the past year.

But the coliseum is booked solid with horse shows during almost all of hockey season, and the convention center arena is too large and also has schedule conflicts, Slaughter said.

The Brahmas played for years at the coliseum and the convention center before switching to NYTEX.

Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808 Twitter:@jscottnishimura

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