There has been buzz about the NHL potentially returning to Atlanta for a third time over the last several months. It all started back in March when ESPN’s John Buccigross tweeted out that Atlanta was at the forefront of potential cities when talking about eventual expansion teams.
— BucciOT.Com (@Buccigross) March 3, 2023
Then in April, another substantial report added fuel to the fire, as Zac Klein of WSB-TV reported that a massive project is set to begin construction known as “The Gathering,” which will follow the blueprint of The Battery but will be even bigger, featuring a nearly 20,000 seat arena along with bars, restaurants, shops and residential living.
Channel 2 @wsbtv EXCLUSIVE — New project in Forsyth County, bigger than The Battery, with new 18,500 seat arena, could be home to newest NHL team in Georgia https://t.co/XF8sAKEGkC pic.twitter.com/KeslGRuWnH
— Zach Klein (@ZachKleinWSB) April 17, 2023
“It will have every amenity that you would expect from a modern arena. It will be built to be very fan- friendly. The guest amenities will be second to none. And it’ll be a very interactive space with a plaza out in front and just very welcoming kind of area,” managing partner of Stafford Sports Carl Hirsch said, via Zach Klein of WSB-TV.
A primary goal of this project is evident. Atlanta wants to be ready for when the NHL decides to expand, and the league is taking notice.
“I think some of the challenges that we’ve seen in the past in Atlanta can be overcome,” NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly said, via ESPN.
Atlanta has tried and failed at hockey twice, but for various reasons, the third time could be a charm, starting with The Gathering. The Braves success is a proof of concept, and there’s no reason it couldn’t do the same for a professional hockey team. Bill Daly says the league is looking for a plan, and Atlanta seems to have one that should entice them to consider the city for a third time.
“There are potential markets that may be suitable for NHL hockey, so our policy is really an open-door policy,” Daly said via ESPN. “If you are interested and have a plan, come see us and certainly we’ll evaluate it from there. If it becomes something our owners are interested in, we can pursue it. Nothing has risen to that level currently, but that could change.”
Daly also noted the location of the rink will be critical to having a successful hockey franchise in Atlanta. Moving it north of the city like the Braves did a few years ago, where The Gathering will be built, should lead to better results.
“I also think that rink location will be important with any decision to locate a franchise in Atlanta,” Daly said via ESPN. “I think if you use the Braves as an example, they struggled, as I understand it, attendance-wise for years, even though they had a very successful team on the field. Their latest stadium is in a perfect location and sells out regularly.”
There are still many hurdles to jump over before there is hockey back in Atlanta, but the necessary steps are being made. The Gathering is going to be a spectacle of a project; they’ve made it clear they want an NHL team, and the NHL has now said they are open to the idea. It will be a few years, but a third NHL franchise in Atlanta is beginning to seem more likely by the day.
Photo: Danny Murphy/Icon Sportswire