Ice Zone to host tourney in May
The facility will be expanded by about 700 seats.
By TOM WILLIAMS
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
BOARDMAN -- By almost doubling the current seating capacity of The Ice Zone by May 9, Bruce Zoldan will keep the North American Hockey League's Robertson Cup championship tournament, now set for early May.
Friday, Zoldan said The Ice Zone seating will be expanded from 800 to 1,500, the number required by the NAHL to host the Robertson Cup.
Zoldan declined to say how much it will cost to increase the seating capacity but said many of the new seats would be on the east side of the building and that no exterior walls would be affected.
NAHL commissioner Michael Santos said four visiting teams plus the Mahoning Valley Phantoms will compete in the hockey tournament May 9-13.
Each participating team will bring 30 players and staff who will be housed in area hotels.
Zoldan said a conservative estimate of the tournament's economic impact for the Valley would be $500,000. For instance, the Boardman Holiday Inn will serve as league headquarters and 100 rooms have been reserved for the five nights of the event.
Zoldan said the tournament could bring 1,000 visitors to Boardman, including family and fans of the competing players. He said 600 rooms being used for five nights is a possibility. Boardman restaurants are likely to draw extra customers.
Because of construction expenses, Zoldan said he doesn't expect the Phantoms to turn a profit in hosting the tournament.
"I'm not in the hockey business for profit, I'm in it because hockey is in my blood now," said Zoldan, adding that the increased seating should help The Ice Zone with other events.
Because of the opportunity for a larger profit, Zoldan had hoped to stage the tournament in late April at the Chevrolet Centre in Youngstown and had pursued a lease with Global Entertainment, the company that manages the facility for the city.
"With the games staged at the new arena, which is an attraction itself, we could have drawn 1,000 more to each game," Zoldan said.
But those plans fizzled when Youngstown SteelHounds owner Herb Washington exercised a clause in his lease which prevents other hockey from being played in the building for 10 years.
In a press release issued Feb. 24, Washington said he rejected the tournament because he was not fully informed of tournament details when the Phantoms and Global Entertainment were negotiating a lease.
Because the 5,700-seat Chevrolet Centre is not available, Zoldan said the Phantoms will do less marketing and advertising for the NAHL tournament because of limited seating.
The owner of B.J. Alan Fireworks added that the event could still be staged at the Chevrolet Centre, but only if Washington gave approval within 48 hours.
"I don't see that happening," Zoldan said.
Contrary to news reports from other NAHL cities, Santos said the NAHL governors never considered taking the tournament away from the Phantoms.
Santos said the NAHL approved the Phantoms' bid last June to stage the event at an expanded Ice Zone and awarded the bid in hope of staging it at the Chevrolet Centre.
"The event was never awarded to another team," Santos said.
The tournament was pushed back to May to allow the Phantoms more time to remodel The Ice Zone and visiting teams and fans extra time to make travel arrangements.