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Hockey secures 150 dates at Covelli

Published: Fri, May 8, 2009 @ 12:07 a.m.

New USHL team, city reach 5-year deal in principle.




YOUNGSTOWN — The city has come to an agreement in principle with the incoming Youngstown Phantoms hockey team to play its 30 regular season home games a season at the Covelli Centre.

The board of control signed a letter of intent that outlines the provisions of a final contract at a meeting Thursday.

Bruce Zoldan, owner of the new team, which will play in the United States Hockey League, had already signed the letter.

The deal should be finalized in about 30 days.

“The team is something Youngstown will be proud of, and they’ll be impressed with the level of hockey to be played,” Zoldan said.

The USHL is the top amateur hockey league in the country.

The contract is for five years with various provisions that could end the deal after four years if the team’s annual attendance is below 60,000, an average of 2,000 a game for the 30-game regular season.

The Phantoms are replacing the Mahoning Valley Phantoms, also an amateur hockey team, which played in the North American Hockey League, a lower league, this past season at the Covelli Centre, which was formerly called the Chevrolet Centre.

Zoldan said he’s still searching for a new location for the Mahoning Valley Phantoms to play next season, but it won’t be in this area.

The rental fee for the new team, which starts playing in October, is similar to the money paid to the center by the NAHL Phantoms.

The rent is based on attendance.

For games with attendance of 2,999 and under the rent is $2,750. It’s $3,500 a game for attendance between 3,000 and 4,000 fans, and $4,000 for attendance above 4,000. The only difference in the rent is the NAHL team paid $3,000 to the center for games that had crowds between 3,000 and 4,000.

The fees will increase by 3 percent in the fourth year of the deal and by another 3 percent in the fifth year.

The contract includes language requiring the team to pay a penalty if it draws poor crowds, something the Mahoning Valley Phantoms did this past season.

That language was unnecessary, Zoldan said, but “it’s in there and those numbers are minimal” compared to the expected attendance.

Zoldan said he purchased the team from the USHL for $750,000, and its annual operating expenses will be between $1 million and $1.2 million.

Eric Ryan, the center’s executive director, said he thinks the deal is fair to both sides.

“We received assurances in there for attendance,” Ryan said. “That’s a pretty important part of the contract.”

The deal should be finalized shortly.

The price for tickets will be kept as low as possible, Zoldan said.

Final prices haven’t been determined, but it should be $1 to $2 more than the NAHL Phantoms prices of $8.50 and $12.50 for most seats, he said.

Part of that is because of fees the team is paying the center and city under the contract, Zoldan said.

The center would receive 50 cents for each ticket sold for games. If, after the second year, season attendance exceeds 45,000, the center’s share would be increased to $1.

The city would receive its 5.5 percent admission tax built into the cost of each ticket.


Hockey deal

The incoming Youngstown Phantoms of the United States Hockey League will begin play in the fall at the Covelli Centre. The Youngstown Board of Control signed a letter of intent that outlines the provisions of a final contract with the team Thursday. Here are some details of the new proposal.

LENGTH: Five years. If the Phantoms leave the USHL for any reason, the contract is terminated. Also, if the overall attendance during the team’s fourth season, 2012-2013, is below 60,000 [an average of 2,000 a game for a 30-game season], the city can terminate the contract. The Phantoms can play a fifth season after termination if it pays $75,000 to the city. The two sides can extend the deal by mutual consent annually for up to five years.

RENT: $2,750 a game for attendance of 2,999 fans and under; $3,500 a game for attendance between 3,000 and 4,000; and $4,000 for attendance above 4,000. The rent will increase by three percent annually for the fourth and the fifth years of the contract. The Phantoms will pay a $750 to the center for every game that doesn’t attract a crowd of at least 1,500.

FACILITY FEES: The center will receive 50 cents of each ticket sold for Phantoms games. If, after the second year, season attendance exceeds 45,000, the center’s share would be increased to $1. The city also would receive its 5.5 percent admission tax built in to the price of the ticket. The cost of tickets has yet to be finalized.

CONCESSIONS: The team will receive 15 percent of the gross sale of all concessions except for luxury suite catering and vending machine revenue. The city’s deal with Boston Culinary, the food and drink vendor at the center, calls for the center to receive 31 percent of the gross sale with the rest going to Boston Culinary. The team’s 15 percent will come from the center’s cut. The team will receive five percent of the gross sale of catering and nothing from vending machines.

LUXURY SUITE: The team shall receive a suite at no additional cost. That suite is the one currently occupied by B.J. Alan Co., the Phantoms’ parent company. The Phantoms would have to buy tickets to other events at the center. The team can sell two suites at the center to others and receive a 30-percent commission for that work.

PARKING: The Phantoms will receive 30 parking passes at the center for each hockey game.

OFFICE SPACE: The team can use office space that used to be occupied by the Youngstown SteelHounds, a former minor league team at the facility. The annual rent is $24,000 if the team’s annual attendance is at least 50,000 and $12,000 if the yearly attendance is less.

Source: Youngstown Board of Control


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

The real question will be if Hockey is even secure. I've said it once and I will say it again: Youngstown will not support Junior-Level hockey.

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2truehockeyfan(6 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

& it didn't support bad "pro" hockey either. Every time you post something it is negative about this. At least you aren't going into this with a typical negative y-town attitude (please note sarcastic tone!).

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3houndsfan(68 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

I have talked to a few people that didn't support the NAHL Phantoms that are going to support the USHL Phantoms. I never asked but I am starting to think that people didn't support the NAHL Phantoms because they feared if it was successful we would never get pro hockey back. I think the support for the USHL Phantoms will be much better now that people understand that pro hockey isn't coming back.

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4boardmanneedschange(364 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

The ominous mention of attendance figures as part of the contract seems to hint that even the local gov't has a fear that this is not going to go well.....we shall see.

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5valleyred(1103 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

I am one of the most optimistic people in this area. But I am not going to spend my money to see my fellow high school graduates play hockey at a $45 million dollar arena.

I'll take 3300 a game over the dismal 1000 the Phantoms had this year.

We needed the ECHL and it looks like that will never happen.

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6dmets(575 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

We need something better then junior hockey! I love hockey and since the Steelhounds have left I have not been back to watch. I would rather go to Cleveland, Pitts, or Columbus. If I want to watch Junior hockey, I am going to go watch my little cousin.

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7AustintownPenguin(27 comments)posted 7 years, 2 months ago

Well its your choice if you want to pay $50+ bucks a ticket plus gas to drive to Cleveland or Pittsburgh or Columbus. At least someone in this area is trying to provde people with something to see.
People mildly supported the SteelHounds, and there was an idiot running the team who was very cheap. What makes anyone think that, with the added expenses, an ECHL team would succeed here when they have failed in many larger markets including Dayton and Cincinnati?
In these economically hard times, I'd rather pay a small price for local entertainment than pay a large price to go out of town. I have a college loan and a car to pay off, I can't afford the luxuries that you can afford.

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