The Minnesota Wild announced Thursday its AHL affiliate Houston Aeros will relocate to Des Moines, Iowa for the 2013-2014 season. With the move comes a change of name for the team, though management has yet to confirm this – the Aeros are expected to play as the Iowa Wild.
The club, which previously played in Houston’s Toyota Center, will now play in Wells Fargo Arena, part of the Iowa Events Center.
The announcement came after negotiations between Minnesota Wild and Toyota Center management were unable to reach a new lease agreement.
“We were not able to find agreement on terms of a new arena lease which would allow us to continue to successfully operate our franchise,” Wild Chief Operating Officer Matt Majkia said in a statement posted on the Aeros‘ and Wild’s websites. “We thank Toyota Center for the partnership we’ve had since moving there in 2003.”
Houston Rockets and Clutch City Sports and Entertainment CEO Tad Brown expressed appreciation for the Aeros franchise since moving to the Toyota Center in 2003.
“Both parties worked diligently and in good faith during this process, but unfortunately we were unable to reach an agreement. We wish the Aeros continued success,” Brown said in a release.
According to ahl.com attendance figures, the Aeros drew 258,122 spectators this season, an average of 6,793 per game. On average attendance, the Aeros ranked seventh in the league.
“Our organization has enjoyed tremendous support from the loyal, passionate hockey fans in Houston since 2001,” Wild Assistant to the General Manager and Aeros General Manager Jim Mill said. “We are grateful to our corporate and community partners, as well as our hard-working staff in Houston.”
Wells Fargo Arena 15,181 seat capacity for hockey games, slightly fewer than the Toyota Center, but plenty ample for the AHL squad. The arena previously hosted the AHL Iowa Chops, affiliate of the Dallas Stars from 2005-08 and Anaheim Ducks in 2008-09.
The Iowa Events Center lies three-and-a-half hours from St. Paul, MN, making it more accessible to the Minnesota Wild’s fan base.
Star Tribune beat writer Michael Russo reported the Minnesota Wild management is committed to marketing hockey in the Des Moines area, which has been devoid of an AHL team since the Chops departed. Russo even hinted the Minnesota Wild could hold part of its preseason training in Des Moines ahead of next season.