The National Roller Hockey League is in the process of adding franchises for its inaugural season, scheduled to begin in May of 2019. We sat down with NRHL Co-Founders Matt Wiedenhoeft and Bob Clouston to find out how it's going and how interested parties might still get involved in being an owner.
How does the league office assist someone who is interested in being an owner?
There's a few different ways. For instance, you can call the league office the way an individual out of Hampton Roads, Virginia did. He is a successful businessman in the Hampton Roads region, who said, 'I want to put a team in Hampton Roads.' We hadn't thought of that market as an immediate location, but now we are working with him to put a team there.
This gentleman is already in the process of securing finances, making sure the market works, making sure the plan works, making sure this makes sense. We are working in assisting him with information and tools, as needed, to fulfill the startup process. He is an example of someone who had a specific city he wanted to be in.
We also have people who reach out to us who are interested in investing or owning a professional sports franchise, but they don't know where they want to go or how to begin. They call and say, 'I've always wanted to be a team owner' but I am not a billionaire who is going wind up with a NHL franchise.
To those people, we introduce them to the right situation. For instance, in St. Louis we have a stadium arena which has offered the most unbelievable lease you'll ever see. We know St. Louis is an amazing city. It is an incredible market for roller hockey. They had a franchise in Roller Hockey International – St. Louis Vipers – that averaged nearly 5,000 in attendance. We have the hockey guys in St. Louis but are seeking the financier.
We'd like to take an investor or group of investors and introduce them to our hockey guys and show them the lease and the market and go from there. We want to have that perfect mix. We only want situations that are going to succeed.
So, if you look at this and think, 'I have some money, and this looks like a good investment and something fun to do, but I don't know how to run a hockey club,' the league office will help solve that?
Yes. We will facilitate everything from getting players on the floor to getting a lease to an arena or partnering with someone else who may want to be an owner also. St. Louis is the perfect example. We can make it work, we just need one person who wants to own it all, or even a few separate people who want to own a share.
As another example, in the greater Dallas, Texas area, we are working with an unbelievable arena and city. The city has indicated there’s possible financial support to get the team off the ground. We know we want Dallas, St. Louis, Detroit, which is already on board and Muskegon, Mich. for sure. Hampton Roads is there. These are the current cities we are working on. We want six cities to start, with eight as a max.
We want people to know, there are still franchise ownership opportunities available.
How much will the league office help franchises with revenue and fan exposure?
On the revenue part of the question – One thing we will do is sponsorships. We want people to know we are open for business. The traditional sponsorship model in roller hockey is bartering – I'll give you 20 sets of wheels for a dasher board and a website link. Well, we aren’t doing that. We aren't bartering. Sponsorships are a money deal now.
As far as fan exposure goes - technology has changed everything. We know that while these teams are local, the audience to consume the content is more than the 5,000+ people who watch the game and buy concessions and all of that. It's international.
We have already established a global fan base. We realized we were global during year one of operations, with a further global reach at the conclusion of year two. We streamed the games online and 30 percent of our audience was international. Germany. Russia. The Ukraine. Great Britain. Everywhere. Small town Canada. Cities we never heard of. They just wanted to watch great roller hockey and they came across us.
We know roller hockey is even more popular outside of North America than it is inside North America. Where we think the true money could be is not singular to only television in the United States, the way old leagues need to operate, but over the internet globally. If you are selling roller hockey wheels, for example, this is the best way to reach the kids who are playing, no matter where they live, here in Detroit or in the Czech Republic. What do they care? We are a very cost-efficient way to reach those players.
In terms of media, there could be a pay streaming service. Or it could be on YouTube. We can put out via social media the kind of content that goes viral. The NRHL goals of the Week on Instagram or SnapChat, with a sponsor. The younger generation doesn't sit and watch games on television now, they watch streaming content or check out highlights on social media. We have exciting, viral content that they want. We have the product to sell.
That's interesting because it makes games played in smaller arenas actually have massive appeal, perhaps even in ways that the NHL doesn't.
Right. You go to a typical NHL game and you have a 4-3 game, that is an extremely exciting game with a lot of action. A lot of times its 2-1. For us, it will not be uncommon for a 12-11 game or a 10-8 game. When you double or triple or quadruple the number of goals, you double or triple or quadruple the number of chances for crazy moments for SnapChat and Instagram. You'll see guys riding the boards. You'll the craziest shots. You'll see long passes. You'll see a game that is even faster and more offensively creative than ice hockey. And then maybe a fight or two and all of that. We can package all of that for the modern sports fan to consume. We are built for this. And it's all at a time of year when there is no hockey or basketball or football highlights to compete against. There is baseball, but that's different.
So would the league control all the sponsorships?
No. There are two different type of sponsorships. The local one, the dasher boards, the local businesses, all of that. Those are for the local ownership. The same with concessions, parking, tickets and things like that.
What the league is working on are the wheels, the sticks, the energy drinks and more. Those will be split up through our profit-sharing model. For example, if we have six teams and it’s a $70,000 deal, each team and the league gets $10,000 each.
How much is the entry fee to own a franchise?
Fifty-thousand dollars. It'll go up to a minimum of $150,000 in the second year. Right now though, it's just $50,000 and we'd like to have six franchises and get going. It might be one owner. It be five guys, some of whom don't even know each other. We can make the introductions. This is a really unique opportunity to be an owner of a professional sports franchise at the Major level, with a Minor league budget to start.
We have plenty of logistics people, plenty of hockey people and we have the experience on the leases so that you aren't walking into a bad situation. We just turned down Philadelphia because the best lease deal we could get wouldn't work. It wasn't a good deal. We don't want to set a franchise up for failure.
And what does a startup operating budget look like?
I would tell them, if they had $50,000 and an additional $50,000 to start, they may never again touch their capital because we have until Spring of 2019 to start. By then revenue will be coming in, which may be sufficient to cover the total operating budget.
We are just looking for someone who says, 'you know, I want to talk to these guys.' Or a group of friends who want to do it. Or someone in a non-traditional market that wants to bring a team to a place we aren't thinking about. It could be a smaller city. It could be the suburbs of a big one. Or it could be someone who owns an arena that's dark in the summer and needs a tenant.
It's an opportunity to own a team in a major league. This isn't the minor leagues. These are the best players in the sport in the world. It's the best. And it will show. We just can't wait to get going.
The National Roller Hockey League is the only professional inline hockey league in North America. The NRHL is preparing to drop the puck in May 2019. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
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