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Report: Three local groups might be interested in keeping Thrashers in Atlanta

Mar 9, 2011, 12:44 PM EST

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While the Phoenix Coyotes sale prompts hand-wringing and plenty of awkward Gary Bettman interviews, the Atlanta Thrashers’ situation has been able to slide under the radar a bit. Sure, it might be because most of the issues are isolated to the Atlanta Spirit and the process hasn’t been generating headlines for years, but it seems like the Thrashers haven’t generated the same level of angst.

That doesn’t really reduce the chances of the team moving from Atlanta itself, but there’s some positivity that the team might stay in Georgia.

One of the team’s current owners Bruce Levenson said that there are three potential buyers from the area who would be interested in keeping the team right where it is, according to Craig Custance of the Sporting News.

According to Levenson, the three potential buyers are currently only interested in buying the Thrashers and not the NBA’s Hawks — and all would keep the NHL team in Atlanta.

The preference is to sell to a local buyer, but ownership hasn’t ruled out ultimately selling to someone interested in moving the team. The group has not yet engaged in serous conversations with anyone outside of Atlanta interested in moving the Thrashers.

When will that change?

“When we have exhausted our efforts to find somebody in Atlanta,” Levenson said.

The challenge in finding a local buyer is finding someone willing to lose money for a potential long period, like Hulsizer said he’s willing to do in Phoenix. The Thrashers, despite an improved team, could lose as much as $20 million this season. Ticket revenues remain near the bottom of the league.

Despite this seemingly promising bit of news, it’s tough to imagine that anyone would want to take on the long-term operating cost of possibly losing $20 million per year. It’s been mentioned before that the Thrashers’ uncertain future is one of the negative domino effects of the standstill in Phoenix, which is hard to deny.
The Thrashers are fading from the playoffs, but they still have some interesting pieces in place for the future. It would be a shame to see the team blossom if they move from Atlanta, but that’s quite possible considering the situation at hand. Much like the Coyotes situation, we will keep you up to date as this process unfolds.

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