The City of Atlanta had no previous history with hockey before the National Hockey League awarded the city a franchise to begin play, along with the New York Islanders, in the 1972-73 season. It was the NHL's first foray into the deep south. In fact, there was not even a ice rink in the metropolitan Atlanta area that the team could use for a practice facility. Team owner Tom Cousins had already begun construction on a new arena to host his NBA Atlanta Hawks and the hockey franchise was viewed as a way to add forty additional dates for the new arena. The arena had a unique design so it could fit on the square footprint between existing railroad tracks. The rink was situated on the diagonal of the square, which created excellent sight lines.
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The Flames played eight full seasons in Atlanta before the team was sold by Cousins in 1980 for what was then a record price of $16 million. Cousins had previously sold his NBA franchise to Ted Turner in 1977. Many reasons have been suggested as to the reason Cousins sold out, but keep in mind that Cousins was primarily a real estate developer and the economic downturn that hit in the late 1970's may have put him into a position that he had to sell.