Rumor and speculation that the Bandits were for sale, which started several weeks ago, were confirmed yesterday, when owner Mike Caggiano announced he was seeking a buyer.
"It [the sale] starts now," said Caggiano. "I'd like to see it get sold here to local ownership, but I can't see that happening."
He said he didn't decide to put the Bandits on the market until the team had given its best effort to improve its financial situation over the past two months.
"We had had bad months October, November and December, attendance-wise, and I kept the league abreast of the situation, saying if things didn't improve during January and February, I couldn't see us going on," said Caggiano.
At that point, the first of the year, it seems, one of the league's other owners took it upon himself to announce that the Bandits were for sale.
"I wanted to make the announcement to our core fans and to the players, of course, and I wanted to do it personally, not have them read it in the papers," said Caggiano.
It was a combination of things that forced his hand, he said, chief among them monetary losses and the lack of good Baltimore Arena dates to draw crowds.
"To get customers," he told the Bandit Boosters, "you have to have the time and the place for them to come. Our study shows us that we'd have to have about 24 or 25 Friday and Saturday dates to have a chance of doing well here. We just couldn't get them, and I don't blame the Arena for that; [it] did the best it could by us."
In nine Friday night games to date, the team has averaged 4,931 fans. Conversely, 13 Sunday afternoon contests have averaged about 2,300.
The owner's statement that he delivered to the Bandits players and Bandit Booster Club after the team had defeated the Philadelphia Phantoms, 4-2, at the Baltimore Arena last evening:
"After exhaustive efforts to make the Baltimore Bandits a profitable enterprise, I have made the decision to sell the American Hockey League team. While I welcome the opportunity to sell the team to local ownership groups, I will also explore options outside the area.
"Initially, I did not pursue options due to the promising future I thought the Bandits had in Baltimore. However, after analyzing the existing situation, I do not see any other way to increase attendance for home-based games.
"This statement is based on the fact that, coupled with the recent veto of the construction of the County Coliseum, we have recently been offered a poor selection of game dates for the 1997-98 season in the Baltimore Arena. A professional hockey team needs as an absolute minimum, 24 Friday and Saturday night dates with which to draw a fan base. Due to previous commitments, the Baltimore Arena has very few Friday and Saturday nights available for us next year. Playing with such a poor schedule would make it unprofitable to keep the Bandits at the Arena, as well as impossible to draw accompanying acts of interest to our fan base.
"Again, from the outset, our fundamental goal has been to seek out a venue in which the Bandits will be able to grow. It is with regret that we may not be afforded the luxury of such growth in Baltimore; however, at this time I must pursue the options which have the team's best interest in mind."
Pub Date: 3/03/97