Exclusive: Hockey coming back to Columbus? Team owner talking lease with city

Local News

Two years after professional hockey left Columbus, there is a good possibility it may return as early as next season. 

News 3’s has learned that a potential owner is talking to the city of Columbus about leasing the Civic Center.

The owner wants to bring a Federal Hockey League team to the city. Federal League Commissioner Don Kirnan confirmed in a phone interview Thursday that a league owner is in negotiations with the city on a Civic Center lease.

“That’s all I can say right now,” Kirnan said.

Civic Center Director Jon Dorman and City Manager Isaiah Hugley declined to comment.

Sources tell News 3 that no lease has been signed.

After two decades of operation, the Columbus Cottonmouths folded two years ago. That left a huge hole in Civic Center’s calendar — wiping out more than 30 event days a year. 

The Cottonmouths were drawing about 2,000 fans a game and continuously losing money when owner Wanda Amos called it quits. 

In addition to the Federal League, an owner with the Southern Professional Hockey League is also interested in Columbus. The Cottonmouths played in the SPHL before folding.

Most of the clubs in the six-team Federal League are in the north. The southernmost team is in Winston-Salem, N.C. 

There are two advantages to a Federal League team over an SPHL team, sources tell News 3. One is money, the ownership cost in that league is less. The other is the Federal League owner would like to play beginning this fall. It would likely be another year before the SPHL could field a team here. 

The Federal League has two teams in New York, Elmira and Watertown; one in Ohio, Mentor; one in Michigan, Port Huron; one in Illinois, Danville; and one in North Carolina, Winston-Salem. 

The SPHJL makes the most geographic sense because the league has teams in Birmingham, Huntsville, Macon, Knoxville, and Pensacola. 

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