Martin Lind doesn’t do sad, doesn’t do depressed. The owner of the Colorado Eagles of the American Hockey League is not moping around the house in this time of pandemic, bemoaning fate over a lost season to the coronavirus. Sounding like a cross between Horatio Alger and a Pentecostal preacher, Lind on Tuesday spoke of the many reasons why he is more excited than ever about the future of the Eagles in Loveland, and of the pro sports world in general once we get a handle on the virus – and others that might come after that – that has temporarily ground sports to a halt.
“America will come back. The Colorado Eagles and the Colorado Avalanche are going to come back, better than ever. I don’t know the timing just yet – nobody does – but when we do come back, we’ll be stronger than ever and the fans that come to our games will be safer than ever,” Lind told Colorado Hockey Now.
There is nothing good about the coronavirus, of course. It has changed everyone’s lives in the past two months and has greatly harmed not only public health, but that of our economy. It has canceled the AHL’s season, one in which the Eagles had a 34-18-3-1 record and were playing to sold-out crowds every night at the Budweiser Events Center in Loveland. The AHL’s Calder Cup will not be awarded this season, for the first time since 1937. At the time of the shutdown in March because of the coronavirus, the Eagles were poised to overtake the Tuscon Roadrunners for the Pacific Division lead and go on what Lind believed would be a long playoff run.
“I’m not depressed, because that’s just not me. But obviously I’m sad for the players that had worked so hard to get to where they were. I’m sad for the coaches and the trainers and the recruiters who worked so hard to get this team to where it was, and I’m sad for our fans who don’t get to see their team right now,” Lind said.
A better day is coming, however, Lind said. A man with deep religious convictions, Lind envisions the fans’ return to sports to the parable of the Prodigal Son, who didn’t realize until it was almost too late what he had when he had it.
“There will be such a pent-up demand for high-fiving the person next to you, such a pent-up demand to share in the roar of the crowd. People won’t take it for granted anymore. They’ve come to realize how much they really missed it,” he said.
Lind, a real estate developer whose Water Valley Land Company is the biggest in Northern Colorado, remains steeped in plans to develop a new shopping and entertainment complex called Brands at the Ranch, which will include a new arena for the Eagles. The hope and expectation remain that the entire complex will become a reality in two or three years – though the virus could alter that timetable some.
For Lind and the Eagles, If there is any silver lining at all to the coronavirus hitting when it did, it is that it has already forced a reimagining of the new arena in terms of health and safety technology. After 9-11, arenas made it tougher to get anything construed as a potential physical threat into the building. In a post-COVID world, Lind says, the arenas of the next 20 years – whether built anew or retrofitted – will be built with “technological and germ-warfare” defense in mind.
“We have magnetometers that can detect a gun now. The new arenas will have trillions of dollars of technology developed by smart, smart people that will detect anything germ-wise. I can see a day very soon where your phone will not only be your ticket, but will be able to take your temperature at any time or notify you if anyone near you has had a virus recently,” Lind said. “The county’s plans are firmly intact and they’re going to go out and see how the world market is going to react to on the public-private partnership. Then, we’ll slide right into the shadow of that. What is the future of sports gatherings? I think we’re in a super blessed position in that the county has not let any projects go yet, so we might be one of the first out of the chute with a Covid-proof building. There will be a new paradigm cooked into the sausage with all new buildings of the next 20 years.”
Lind said the Eagles “have not had one layoff” since the shutdown, and he doesn’t envision any. That said, he does acknowledge the uncertainty of the near-term future of the AHL. For the AHL to be a viable entity, he said, it needs fannies in seats.
“Our league doesn’t work without fans in the building,” he said.
Lind said he is “super optimistic” the NHL’s 2019-20 season will resume at some point this year.
“I don’t really know anything more than anyone else on that, but I know that they really want to make it happen,” Lind said.