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| Sports |

Tom Hicks is Forcing Austin's Beloved Ice Bats to Find "A New Cave"

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Seven years ago, my old friend Jason Cohen published a terrific book, Zamboni Rodeo, about "life on the road" with Austin Ice Bats, the official Central Hockey League affiliate of the Minnesota Wild. The Ice Bats have played in various locations in and around Austin for 12 seasons. Only, reports the Austin American-Statesman this morning, they may have fly away -- thanks to Tom Hicks.

Because, see, says the Austin daily: "The Bats had hoped to move to the $55 million events center planned by the City of Cedar Park, a 6,800-seat arena expected to open in 2009." Only, Hicks is moving the Dallas Stars' new American Hockey League affiliate into the Cedar Park facility in 2010. Hicks got a hell of a deal too: According to a Statesman story over the weekend, Cedar Park's paying $43 million "toward the construction of the 6,800-seat center," while Hicks is ponying up a mere $12 million. And as a thank-you, Hicks even gave Cedar Park city officials personalized Dallas Stars jerseys -- which they had to return on the advice of counsel.

The Stars were affiliated with the Iowa Stars till April. Because two months earlier, Hicks Sports Marketing Group announced the creation of the Stars' new CHL franchise, the Texas Stars.

Hicks' move south is forcing the Ice Bats to find "a new cave," in the words of team owner Randy Sanders, who adds, "We are currently looking for an acceptable location in the Austin area but will investigate relocating the team outside of this area if needed." Tom Hicks sure knows how to make friends. --Robert Wilonsky

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