SAINT PAUL, Minn. – In an announcement expected by many for some time, the National Hockey League’s Minnesota Wild announced on Thursday that its American Hockey League developmental affiliate will relocate from Houston, Texas, to Des Moines, Iowa beginning with the 2013-14 season. Media sources in Houston and Minneapolis also reported that the franchise will be re-branded as the Iowa Wild.
“Our organization has enjoyed tremendous support from the loyal, passionate hockey fans in Houston since 2001,” Wild Assistant to the General Manager/Aeros General Manager Jim Mill said. “There is a great hockey history in Houston, beginning with the Apollos in 1965, and continuing with the Aeros in the WHA, IHL and AHL. We are honored to have been a part of this hockey tradition. We are grateful to our corporate and community partners, as well as our hard-working staff in Houston.”
Negotiations between the Aeros and the Houston Rockets / Clutch City Sports & Entertainment to establish a new lease over the last several months did not yield a deal. It left the Aeros and the Wild with no other choice but to seek a new location for the franchise.
“We were not able to find agreement on terms of a new arena lease which would allow us to continue to successfully operate our franchise. We thank Toyota Center for the partnership we’ve had since moving there in 2003,” Wild Chief Operating Officer Matt Majka said.
Dating back to the 2005-2006 season, the Aeros have been among the AHL’s top ten clubs in average attendance. In that time, Houston peaked during the 2011-2012 campaign with an average attendance of 7,324 fans per game. This season, the team is seventh in average attendance at 6,793.
Clutch City Sports & Entertainment C.E.O. Tad Brown said that despite the failure to reach a suitable deal, the Rockets and CCSE wished the Aeros success with their relocation.
“We have enjoyed a very strong relationship with the Aeros dating back to Toyota Center’s inaugural 2003 season. Both parties worked diligently and in good faith during this process, but unfortunately we were unable to reach an agreement. We wish the Aeros continued success,” Brown said.
Des Moines is no stranger to AHL-level hockey. From 2005-2008, the Dallas Stars operated the Iowa Stars, who played at the Wells Fargo Arena. Dallas left but was quickly replaced by the Anaheim Ducks who re-branded the team as the Iowa Chops for the 2008-2009 season. Due to financial issues, the Chops lost their affiliation with the Ducks and the AHL suspended the franchise in 2009.
Following the AHL’s Board of Governors approval of the relocation on Thursday, league President and C.E.O. David Andrews thanked the city of Houston and its fans for hosting the Aeros.
“On behalf of our Board of Governors, I would like to thank the fans of the Houston Aeros for the terrific support they have shown their team and the American Hockey League for the last 12 years,” Andrews said.
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