In Binghamton, New York, one of the beloved features is having a hockey team. In 2002, their team was the Binghamton Senators and their home was at the Floyd L. Maines Veterans Memorial Arena. The Arena, as of August 2020, was bought by Visions Federal Credit Union, and renamed as the Visions Federal Credit Union Memorial Arena. Also featured at the Arena is the Binghamton Hockey Hall of Fame.
The Binghamton Senators transitioned from starting out as the New Haven Nighthawks (1972-1992), the New Haven Senators (1992-1993), the Prince Edward Island Senators (1993-1996), and after the Binghamton Senators in 2017, they became the Belleville Senators. That was when the Binghamton Devils took over their place, and they are currently owned by the New Jersey Devils.
Following the Covid-19 pandemic, the Binghamton Devils moved down to Newark to practice, and are now being told that their contract is not up for renewal for the following season. There was very little information given out, but it was stated that the New Jersey Devils had some demands that were impossible to achieve. Tom Mitchell who is the Executive Vice President of Operations for the Binghamton Devils is definitely saddened by the news.
“Binghamton has been a great home for an American Hockey League team for the better part of 50 years and there’s a lot of good reasons for an American League team to be here. Geographically we make a lot of sense to all the teams around us, to the league, and Binghamton has a lot to offer. A terrific building, terrific fans and we certainly don’t deserve this treatment.” (WBNG, 2021).
While Mitchell believes strongly that Binghamton has a lot to offer, others would definitely disagree. The city has declined rapidly due to its ever rising drug abuse issues, and in 2019 there was even a state of emergency put out in Broome County because of it. The city also has a 33.2% poverty rate, which is pretty high. The median household income is just barely above $31,000, and the median property value is at roughly $89,400. (DataUSA, 2021). Businesses are rapidly closing due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and their tiny airport only has two flights a day and only to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport.
The Binghamton area is also home to SUNY Binghamton University, which is in Vestal, New York. It has over 14,000 undergraduate students and almost 4,000 graduate students. (Binghamton University, 2021).
On one hand, having an AHL hockey team in Binghamton is extremely beneficial. It gets residents out for the night, and brings visitors in. The downtown Binghamton area near the Arena has a lot of small businesses that can benefit immensely from the Hockey nights. Especially the bars and restaurants. It almost provides entertainment for students on the weekend to get out with friends, and ones visiting from out of town. Having a positive source of news would benefit the community greatly.
But Binghamton is clearly a dying community, as much as some residents want to admit. The income is bad, the health and drug environment is terrible, and many residents that are in the age category to want to attend hockey games are leaving. A lot of residents might honestly say that the only thing keeping the community alive is Binghamton University, and without it, the area would be nothing.
One could argue that one of the reasons that the New Jersey Devils chose to move their affiliate was because of the economy that Binghamton provides. That is, of course, presumptuous. But not to be completely dismissed. Moving to an area that has more economic growth, especially with more millennials, would be better for the team. After the Senators left, there wasn’t as much buzz about the hockey games. And most likely, after the Devils leave, it will continue to decline.
I am sure that more information will be released, as this was new, but without the team there, it’s for certain that Binghamton will continue to flounder.