Have you ever stopped to think about what the value of an NHL team is to a community? It might be much more than you realize. About a month ago, Bomani Jones from "850 The Buzz" offered an opportunity for folk to call in and speak about this subject on his afternoon show. Due to some possible controversy he canceled the event, but we don't need Bo to have this discussion. We can do it right here and right now.
Let's begin with the obvious. No one needs to be told that there is a lot of money changing hands at the RBC Center. The players are among the highest paid "employees" in the community. If you use the 8% state income tax rate and apply that to the approximate 50 million in player salaries this year, the result is an extra 4 million to be added to the Department of Revenue's payroll tax base. That number doesn't include the earnings of Jim Rutherford, Peter Laviolette, Ron Francis, Jason Karmanos, and the rest of management.
Let's estimate that the total state payroll tax paid by Hurricanes related personnel is about 5 million per year.
Of course there are a lot of normal, ordinary jobs associated with the team as well. From accountants and ticket agents to part-time maintenance workers and ushers, hundreds of people rely on the Hurricanes for regular paychecks.
All of these employees spend money in the local economy. The people on the higher end of the payscale will spend a lot of it. They buy expensive homes, automobiles, furnishings, and other necessities as well as luxuries. Associated with these expenses are the accompanying taxes that are added on top. Substantial real estate, personal property, school, and sales taxes accumulate. The economic impact and benefit of all this is easily in the millions.
The Hurricanes ownership group provided assistance in securing the construction of the RBC Center. Gale Force Holdings manages the property and has been a good partner with NC State, as well as with the community. While hotel taxes help to pay some expenses, events at the RBC help to increase the hotel traffic. The sharing of that tax revenue seems like a fair idea. It's extremely difficult to estimate how much tangible affect the Hurricanes have regarding the RBC other than their initial investment of 28M, but there is a huge benefit to having them as long term tenants.
Visiting teams and fans will come to the area 40 plus times a year, spending money at hotels, restaurants, and retail outlets. The team itself utilizes the services of various professionals in the community such as lawyers, physicians, physical therapists, and dentists. Everyday of the year, Hurricanes related transactions are strengthening the local economy.
But not only do the Hurricanes help the economy by performing their normal, day to day operations, they can also give it a huge boost with special events. When the NHL Draft was held in Raleigh, thousands of visitors came to the area spending millions in the immediate vicinity, just during one long weekend. The impact of an NHL All-Star game would be tremendous, and also in the millions. When the Hurricanes make it to the playoffs, similar spikes in revenue will occur.
Since the Hurricanes moved here, skating rinks have more than quadrupled in the area. Youth hockey has exploded. Adult leagues have multiplied. The very existence of the Canes has created several brand new businesses.
The economic benefits add up very quickly. Over the ten year period the Canes have been in North Carolina, one could conservatively estimate that the total financial impact to the community has been worth well over 100 million dollars.
But there are other things in life besides money.
The Hurricanes are among the highest contributors to local charities of all employers in the area. They have a specific organization set up by the team, the Kids 'N Community Foundation. The privately run organization has contributed more than 6 million to local charities since it's inception in 1997. Over 50 local charities have recently benefited from the foundation's donations.
Players and employees volunteer without pay to make the foundation a success. Special events are held, like "Casino Night" and "Skate with the Canes". Memorabilia is auctioned off with proceeds going toward the cause. The Hurricanes also help to organize sponsors efforts for charity as well.
Players also get involved on a personal level. For instance Cam Ward started a program with the local Special Olympics called "Cam's Champs". The goalie donates $4 per save that he makes each season which has totaled up to thousands of dollars so far. Several players are also heavily involved with their churches and other causes. Carolina's strength and conditioning coach, Pete Friesen holds an annual 5K run that benefits the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. One could go on and on listing the multitude of recipients that the Hurricanes and their employees have helped out or contributued to.
Taking everything into consideration mentioned here, you would think that the Hurricanes would be the darlings of the local media, but nothing could be further from the truth. There is one beat writer who focuses on them for the local paper. There are a couple of sports radio stations who give them some love. But for the most part, you don't seem to hear much about the value of the franchise to the community.
Several publications have consistently listed the Triangle as one of the best places to live in America. I can't help but think that the Hurricanes help contribute to that.
And we wonder why some outsiders want NHL hockey to fail here and move back up north?