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Dayton’s ECHL hockey team won’t play in the fall

Published: Tue, March 31, 2009 @ 12:05 a.m.

By Tom Williams

Mayor Jay Williams won’t talk about specific teams, concerned it could ‘jeopardize a potential deal.’

YOUNGSTOWN — The ECHL, the hockey minor league that city officials have shown interest in acquiring a franchise for the Chevrolet Centre, has confirmed that the Dayton Bombers will not play in the 2009-10 season.

The Dayton Daily News reported Monday that the Bombers, an 18-season member of the league, played its final home game at the Wright State University Nutter Center and won’t be back this fall.

The Bombers’ final regular-season game is Saturday at Reading, Pa.

The ECHL says the franchise, owned by Costa Papista, must inform the league board of governors of its future intentions at the league’s annual meeting on June 24.

Papista told the Daily News that despite averaging almost 3,700 fans that the team would not break even for the 2008-09 season and could not continue without major capital infusion.

The owner since 2004, Papista said the team has not made a profit during his tenure.

Papista told The Vindicator in January that his team was staying in Dayton and would not relocate. Attempts by the newspaper to reach him last week or Monday were unsuccessful.

Youngstown Mayor Jay Williams declined to comment when asked if city officials were negotiating to bring the Bombers to the city-owned Chevrolet Centre.

“I won’t specifically comment on teams,” he said. “I don’t want to jeopardize a potential deal. Nothing’s been finalized.”

In January, The Vindicator reported that the city and Bruce Zoldan, owner of the Mahoning Valley Phantoms who play games at the arena, were discussing the possible relocation of the Wheeling (W.Va.) Nailers of the ECHL to Youngstown. The disclosure of those discussions ended any potential deal.

Zoldan, who’s trying to convince city leaders to approve his plan to bring a higher-level amateur to the Chevrolet Centre, said he’s not surprised that a minor league team was ailing.

“I thought that might happen,” said Zoldan of rumors that have been swirling around the Dayton franchise. “Unfortunately, it’s common in minor-league hockey in the tough economy we’re in.”

Zoldan said he believes the Bombers announcement will have no effect on whether the city accepts or declines his proposal for a USHL team. He expects a decision to be made within 48 hours. Williams said a decision will be made in the near future, but didn’t give a time frame.

The Phantoms will open the North American Hockey League playoffs on Friday at 7:30 p.m. when they play the Traverse City North stars at the Chevrolet Centre. Game 2 of the best-of-five series will be played Sunday at 3 p.m.

The Phantoms, which had poor attendance at its Chevrolet Centre games, won’t return next season to the facility.

The USHL is a top-tier amateur league that Zoldan believes will be successful as a replacement of the Youngstown SteelHounds, who were booted out of the Central Hockey League last June.

The Phantoms played 20 regular-season games at the center.


1valleyred(1103 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago


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2valleyred(1103 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

We aren't Dayton. We will support an ECHL team if we got one. No-one will support more junior hockey here, so NO USHL.

We want the ECHL.

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3houndsfan(68 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

Do not agree with you valleyred, we are not going to support an ECHL any better than the other cities that have lost teams as well as the cities that are struggling. Populations in July of 2007 of Cincinnati 332,458, Dayton 155,461, Toledo 295,029, and Youngstown 73,818. Each city has had a failed hockey franchise. Keep telling yourself we will support an ECHL team, but it's not going to happen.

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4houndsfan(68 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

At $5 a ticket I will be going to both Phantoms games at the Chevy Centre. I will have the no ECHL signs, unless they make a decision b4 then.

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5iwantprohockey(13 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

if your so negative about people not coming out to see an ECHL team then what makes you think people are going to come out and see high school kids play? i dont get it.

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6houndsfan(68 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

I am not sure people will support the USHL. I do believe we would get 5 years of hockey if the USHL comes here, we may get 3 years if the ECHL comes here. I am just looking at the entire picture and it seems to me that with all the lower cost associated with the USHL it has a better chance.

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7valleyred(1103 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

Professional- We got 3300 a game.
High School/Junior- We get 1000 a game at cheaper tickets.

It's a no brainer! I refuse to attend Phantoms games. If we get an ECHL team, I will buy season tickets for the first time ever.

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8houndsfan(68 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

3300 in the ECHL is a loss. Dayton-3679, Mississippi-3150, Phoenix-3025, Augusta-2722 and Fresno-3284. All stopped operations this year. I was a season ticket holder for two years, but now I will go to 15-20 games no matter which league we get. I would love to believe that the ECHL would be well supported in Y-Town, but looking at the way are attendance dropped each year I find it hard to believe.

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9iwantprohockey(13 comments)posted 7 years, 1 month ago

so ultimately a team survives being in a city by the number of fans that come out and spend the evening watching the product. i dont see people in this area supporting a USHL team when the same age group has been in our area for awhile now playing with no support.

One other thing. people have been saying how those guys are stuck in the ECHL and never make it anywhere...well those kids from the USHL have to go somewhere right? they hardly ever go straight to the NHL!

I agree with valley..i'll be a first time season ticket holder with an echl team.

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