Utah Blaze: Avoiding going up in flames

Deseret News photo

Deseret News photo

            I see where the Utah Blaze were evicted last week from EnergySolutions Arena for nonpayment of back rent.

            Owner Kim Brown has said an outside investor will soon be here to save the day and the team should be fine to play on Saturday at ESA. I’m not gleeful about the possibility of losing a team, but it happens. Salt Lake has had roller hockey, pro rodeo, pro volleyball and pro soccer teams come and go.

            It has had two American Basketball Association incarnations fail – the original ABA and the minor league spinoff.

            Keeping a foothold in the marketplace is difficult, even for a team such as the Blaze, who have been around awhile. There are a lot of challenges, beyond the debts Brown reportedly inherited when she became principal owner last winter. Among them:

            — The economy. People are still not spending at the rate they did before the recession. Sports are one of the first things to go when it comes to belt-tightening – especially when they’re a niche product.

            Arena Football is a good deal for the price, but as cash gets tight, people start deciding one or the other. Used to be that indoor football was a way to get fans from season to season. Now fans can watch replays of big college or pro games on TV, even in summer.

            — Competition. Summer is generally considered a good time to bring in new sports to Utah. College football and basketball, the Jazz and hockey are in hibernation mode, so there’s an opportunity. But with the Bees and Real Salt Lake going full speed, that still makes it difficult to carve a spot.

            Meanwhile, the NBA and college football reach just keeps getting longer. Teams dominate space in the media almost year-round. BYU has its football media day this week. The NBA Draft is on Thursday, then it’s on to free agency. Utah and Utah State will have their media days in July.

            Recruiting stories and big  camps draw attention, too.

            In other words, it’s difficult to remove focus from the biggest sports, even in the off-season.

               So it’s going to be a lot of work for the Blaze, with or without an infusion of investor money. Even with an entertaining product, and even in the “down” season, it’s hard to find a place for one more sport.


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