What’s next for Albany after Devils’ departure?
With the Albany Devils now officially out the door for the final time at the Times Union Center following their elimination from the AHL playoffs on Friday, it will obviously bring up the question of what will replace them.
An idea would be bringing in an NBA D-League team. The Times Union Center has hosted several NBA preseason games, with all of them being relatively successful, with the last one having been played in 2015 with a preseason matchup between the Brooklyn Nets and Philadelphia 76ers, which brought in 6700 fans to the Times Union Center.
Personally, I think a D-League team would do well in Albany. However, there’s a few problems with having a minor-league basketball team in Albany. The NBA D-League plays at the same time that the NBA does, through the winter which could potentially create a scheduling conflict with Siena men’s basketball, as the D-League plays from November to April. It would allow for the last two or so months of the season to be played conflict-free in terms of Siena but could potentially interfere with other events the Times Union Center hosts, particularly concerts. In addition, Siena needs approximately 15 home dates during their season depending on the year. The D-League plays 50 games per season, so a team in Albany would need 25 home dates each year plus practice time. If you add that onto all the other events that the Times Union Center hosts, it would be extremely difficult logistics-wise.
Another thing, all of the NBA teams that play within about four hours of Albany already have established D-League squads (I’m thinking Brooklyn, New York, Boston and Philadelphia). Albany would have to get a team to relocate to the city in order to pick up a team that people would want to go to if that is their favorite team. I’m not saying that nobody would go if it wasn’t a nearby team, but people would be more likely to go if it was.
Here’s an option that could potentially work; an arena football team. Albany has hosted a pair of arena football teams in the past, the AFL’s Albany Firebirds which played at the TU from 1990-2000, and the AF2’s Albany Conquest which lasted from 2002-2009. Both ended up relocating, but that’s simply the business of small-league sports. The once-thriving AFL has struggled in recent years and they are now down to just five teams in a league that had as many as 19 teams and had 17 just five years ago. That probably isn’t the best option for an expansion bid.
However, here is the option. There’s a new league that just started up in 2016, the National Arena League. The league currently has eight teams with a ninth on the way and plays in cities such as Corpus Christi, Texas, Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania and Columbus, Georgia. These are all cities but not huge ones, so Albany would fit in great (for reference, the expansion team will be in Trenton, New Jersey, and start play next season). The league plays from mid-March to June so it would create minimal scheduling issues at the Times Union Center, as it does not coincide with Siena’s season. It might be crazy, but it just may work.
Minor-league hockey has likely played its final game at the Times Union Center. It was fun while it lasted, but it’s time for Albany to start fresh with a new team, no matter what sport it may be.