San Diego became one of 10 cities to enter the chase for an NHL franchise Wednesday when entrepreneur Harry Cooper's application and $100,000 filing fee were accepted by the league office.
Seven other American cities--Milwaukee, Seattle, Phoenix, Houston, Tampa, St. Petersburg, Fla., and Miami--and two Canadian cities--Hamilton and Ottawa--have applied. Of the $100,000 filing fee, $35,000 is non-refundable.
Two cities will be accepted into the NHL in 1992, and each ownership group will pay a $50-million franchise fee.
Cooper said San Diego's chances for a team hinge on several factors: raising the $50 million; having a state-of-the-art arena to play in; attracting a local group of investors, and getting support from civic leaders and the press.
By December, Cooper said he and his group must raise a $5-million line of credit. And if their application is accepted, they would have to raise another $22.5 million one year before beginning play. The other $22.5 million would be due six months before the 1992 season.
Cooper, co-owner of San Diego's new entry in the International Hockey League, said he would only be a minority owner for the new franchise. He would not identify the other investors or who the managing general parter might be but did say the ownership group will consist of a small group of local investors and one from out of town.
"If I can help put this together, that will good enough for me," said Cooper, who put up the $100,000 application fee himself. "But I can't do it by myself."
The NHL is expected to announce its two new teams at its winter meetings in December. Applications will be reviewed by a committee of the league's Board of Governors in the next few weeks, and a report is expected to be made to the full board by mid-November.
Since 1979, the NHL has carried 21 teams, but a Bay-area team will begin play in 1991. Plans are in the works for the league to expand to 28 teams by the year 2000.
If San Diego is accepted into the league in 1992, Cooper said the team would probably be called the Gulls and play initially in the Sports Arena. He said he hoped his proposed arena in Sorrento Hills would be ready for play in 1994.
"We would try to keep some of the (IHL) Gulls management in place," Cooper said.
If the NHL decides against awarding San Diego a franchise in 1992, Cooper said he would still be hopeful of being approved for admission later.
"I'm hoping that they will name all of the (six new franchises) in December," Cooper said. "That way, the cities involved could make the necessary plans."
Cooper said he believes the NHL must look toward the West Coast in order to build rivalries and improve television revenue.
"The league needs to build on the success that Bruce McNall and Wayne Gretzky have brought to the West (with the Kings)," he said. "The league seems more focused on the East Coast. If they expand to San Francisco, Seattle and San Diego, it would give them more television revenue."
Cooper said "the (NHL) is sold on San Diego" but that investors must buy the concept.
"It's really important that we show the investors more than the league," he said. "I think we can show them early that there is a core of support."
John Ziegler, NHL president, said he would not speculate about which cities might be front-runners.
"We're not going to prejudge any of the applicants," he said. "Today is not the day. We're excited that so many cities have such confidence in the NHL and we want to work with them."
San Diego, Milwaukee and Phoenix are the only cities applying for a franchise that now have minor league teams.
Milwaukee is generally considered to be one of the stronger applicants for an NHL franchise. The Milwaukee Admirals play in the 2-year-old Bradley Center, also home of the NBA's Bucks. It is considered a state-of-the-art facility for hockey.
Ziegler said U.S. cities did not have an advantage in the process.
"The border is not a factor in awarding franchises," he said. "Hamilton and Ottawa share a great hockey tradition, and we'll analyze all factors before we make a decision."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.