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Plan to preserve Ice Zone fails

Published: Sun, April 14, 2013 @ 12:07 a.m.

Campaign to sell season tickets for Phantoms fizzles

By David Skolnick



The Youngstown Phantoms owner’s plan to have families of those who use the Ice Zone help sell 1,000 season tickets for his junior hockey league team failed only one month into the effort.

Bruce Zoldan — who owns both the team that plays its home games at the Youngstown-owned Covelli Centre and the indoor ice-skating facility in Boardman — said reaction from Ice Zone families to the Phantoms’ ticket deal has been poor.

Only 28 season tickets were sold by Ice Zone families as of last week, he said, with his expectation of about 300 to 400 by May 15 nearly impossible to reach.

If 1,000 tickets were sold by Ice Zone families, Zoldan said he would keep the facility open for another year. The Ice Zone will close permanently sometime between May 15 and early June, he said, barring a miracle of significantly more ticket sales.

If that happens, and Zoldan said he seriously doubts it, the Ice Zone could reopen in September.

But Zoldan essentially is throwing in the towel, planning to refund those who bought the 28 season tickets at the end of this week.

“I’m not optimistic that those at the Ice Zone are taking the offer to buy season tickets to keep the facility open seriously,” he said. “I believe the Ice Zone is going to close. Truthfully, I don’t have the time to be involved with this.”

Zoldan contends the families of figure skaters and hockey players don’t get along and never got behind his proposal, which he unveiled March 14.

Zoldan, who is also chief executive officer for the B.J. Alan fireworks company, took particular aim at the parents of youth hockey players at the Ice Zone — saying they were “screaming and crying” about the business closing.

“It’s all just chatter about keeping the Ice Zone open,” he said.

Bob Gray, spokesman for the 125-family Youngstown Area Amateur Hockey Association, disagreed with Zoldan’s assessment, and said the question marks about the future of the Ice Zone and the Phantoms team made it “difficult” to sell season tickets.

“I’m flabbergasted,” Gray said in response to Zoldan’s comments. “All the groups are working together. ”

There are another 125 families at the Ice Zone for figure skating and adult hockey, he said.

“Having 250 families try to sell 1,000 tickets when [the Phantoms] only sold 350 this season is challenging,” Gray said. “I can’t force people to buy tickets.”

Also, there are a number of Ice Zone families with season tickets for Phantoms games, and if they purchased them for next season, they wouldn’t count toward the 1,000 figure, Gray said.

“I’ve had people who called to say they plan to re-up, and we’re not getting credit for those,” he said.

Without the 28 season tickets bought through the Ice Zone families, the Phantoms have sold 44 season tickets with a large majority of those tickets purchased by current season ticketholders, Zoldan said.

On top of that, the Phantoms ticket plan for next season eliminates $6 seats on the east end of the arena. Zoldan said those tickets weren’t selling well.

By doing so, the least expensive season tickets for Phantoms home games are increasing from $180 to $240 under the new plan. Though the seats are better, the plan increases the cheapest season tickets by 33 percent next season.

The game-day prices of some seats would be reduced next season and be even less costly under a season-ticket plan. But the best seats in the arena would remain the same for season tickets because of a fee added to them by the Covelli Centre.

This is assuming there is a next season for the Phantoms.

The Phantoms’ home-game attendance has been among the worst in the U.S. Hockey League since the team started nearly four years ago.

Zoldan has said people in the area have been slow to embrace hockey.

William A. Weimer, B.J. Alan Co. vice president and general counsel, was more blunt. “Unfortunately, as much as we’ve tried to push ice sports, there’s a disconnect there — it’s a hard-core football and baseball area,” he said in February.

The USHL says the Phantoms average attendance at home games during its first three years was 1,760 while the center says the average number of people who show up to watch the team was 1,226.

This season, the USHL says the Phantoms average attendance is 1,339 [not including this weekend’s final two home games before the playoffs] and the center says it’s 1,189.

The team had to average at least 2,000 people a game per season for the first four years at the center for it to automatically play a fifth season. It hasn’t reached that number in any of its seasons.

The contract states the “city may elect to terminate the agreement prior to the fifth season” if the team fails to reach that 2,000 average. Also, the contract states: “The Phantoms may play the fifth year after termination of the agreement by the city by paying an extra $75,000.”

“Once the season is complete, I plan on giving the city the attendance numbers and financial data,” said Eric Ryan, the Covelli Centre’s executive director. “The final decision whether to terminate the contract or let the contract go to the fifth year is the city’s decision.”

Mayor Charles Sammarone said he will get an opinion from Ryan, and then make a decision on the Phantoms’ future at the center.

“I hope to have a decision by June 1,” he said. “Will it happen? I don’t know, but I hope it happens by then. I want to get it over with and move on. The goal is June 1, but it could be later.”

The center loses a small amount of money on each Phantoms game, Ryan has said.

Zoldan, who’s said he’s lost more than $1 million running the team, wants another year at the center without paying the $75,000.

When his season-ticket plan included 1,000 sold by those associated with the Ice Zone, Zoldan told The Vindicator last month that he would attempt to sell 1,500 season tickets in a “last-ditch effort to keep hockey” at the center.

But with that plan essentially scrapped, Zoldan’s new goal is to sell 750 season tickets for next season.

The team sold about 350 season tickets this year.

With 750 season tickets and 900 people buying single-game tickets, Zoldan said he’d be satisfied. That’s 1,650 fans a game, which is lower than what the USHL lists as the team’s average during its first three seasons.

The Phantoms also pay an attendance penalty of $750 a game to the center in which it doesn’t draw a crowd of 1,500. The team paid $12,000 in the 2009-2010 season, and $15,750 for both the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons.

During those three seasons, the Phantoms played 30 home games, failing to reach at least 1,500 fans for 18 games during its inaugural season and for 21 games during its second and third seasons.


1nipsy(157 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

It is sad that a business man would try to blame the customers for his failure to sell season tickets.. I am sure these families have paid more than their fair share to the ICE ZONE over the years. Maybe Mr. Zoldan should stick to selling firecrackers.

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2ytownsteelman(659 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Well here we have two shining examples of Mahoning valley logic! The first would have the Mill Creek property tax voted down, affecting the ability to operate the entire park, because an ice rink isn't open?? An ice rink that wasn't being used much in the first place. Voting down levies guarantees that not only would the ice rink never reopen again, but that some of the other services provided by Mill Creek would also close.

Secondly another person thinks that business owners somehow control the level of customer demand for his product. Yes customers are to blame if they don't purchase a product. A business owner cannot force customers to purchase a product (only the US govt. can do that), so if a business fails it is because customers did not want that product or felt it was not a value to them.

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3Jcsteel(3 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

It is a sad day when another cultural/recreational venue disappears from an area that has too little to begin with. Perhaps Mr. Zoldan should have actually marketed and operated the Ice Zone properly instead of trying to lay blame on the families who are the ones who have supported his business. I would be willing to bet the previous poster has no idea how much money parents of skaters, both hockey and figure, invest in the sport with the bulk of it going to the Ice Zone for ice time. Funny that it isn't mentioned in the article that the one sheet of ice at the Ice Zone is constantly in use. A wealthy " businessman" who throws stones at his customers sounds like sour grapes to me. Revitalizing the area is never going to happen if everyone has his attitude. Very sad.

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4ytownicesportsupport(5 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

What a smart businessman! Way to go MR. Zoldan, threaten your customers with what they need, that gets the job done. Logical business practices indicates that when you don't have something customers want, they go elsewhere to get it...

...which is what the families of the Ice Zone are doing! You have left them no choice! Mr. Zoldan let the rink decline. This isn't because parents, skaters, and young kids of public session and lessons have not attended. This is because of poor management, lack of facility upkeep, and an I don't give a crap attitude. He said it in the article himself! He doesn't have time!

So you don't care, pass it on to the people who want their children to exceed in sports! Who want their kids active in the area in which they live, not travel to Pittsburgh or Cleveland for ice time, and patronize out of area businesses. Take a look at the amount of scholarships that are given from skating programs, to athletes of ice sports in general. Or better yet, dig a little deeper and take a look at the amount of trophies and medals won by these kids hanging on their walls and shelves.

Bottom line is parents and skaters DID support the plan to sell tickets, and they did do all things possible. We can't make people buy something they don't want, and people that don't want to support Mr. Zoldan, but want to support the skating were told they weren't allowed to process their donations in that matter. A major fundraising event cancelled, kids left without a training facility...just sad....

...but yet you have 5-6 employees there at your slowest time "working". More like sleeping in the concession stand, sitting eating on the counters, or "hiding" when a person wants to pay for ice time. Oh yes, let me hand over my $240 for tickets so I can spend another year in a place like that...

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5redeye1(5057 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Over the summer months turn the Ice Zone into a roller hockey league rink. It might take a while, but I trully feel that it could be a real money maker. You see its cheaper to play roller hockey then ice hockey ( equipment wise) . In the fall months make one rink a soccer field with indoor, outdoor carpeting. Just ideas that just might it a profitable opertaion.

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6phantomfan(2 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

I just don't get it. I am wondering why the ice zone just doesn't close half of the facility, and then lease the closed half maybe for some type of storage facility. The leased side of the facility might be able to help with the upkeep of the opened side of the facility. Also, I would suggest Mr. Zolden take a look at some facilities similar in size (just 1/2 of the current facility) and see how they run and operate. I currently send my kids to skate lessons at Center Ice just near the Akron-Canton airport because of all the uncertainty about the Ice Zone being open. Center Ice's facility is about 1/2 the size of the current Ice Zone, and they are constantly busy. I seems to me that Center Ice is a well run facility, so maybe there can be something learned there.

I would also like to say that supporting the Phantoms the last couple of years has been a joy. Those kids play their hearts out there on that ice and I for one will be sad if they are not around.

Lastly, I would question some decisions about the organization, especially the one to raise ticket prices such a large percentage. I understand the idea of trying to make money in tickets, but I believe the increase in prices is very steep and it will be almost impossible to sell those season tickets at those prices. It seems to me that by raising the prices so much, they want the Phantoms to fail and be forced to leave the area.

Just my two cents...

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7Metz10987(145 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Actually I don't think Zolden owns or operates the Ice Zone so it is out of his control really. SAnd the City of Youngstown owns and opeates the Covelli Center so if anyone is at fault the city is for not being behind the team or center completly from the start. As usual the rich guy gets blmaed and while that is true in many cases in this one it is not his fault. The team did most of their own promting online on their twitter and facebook pages as well as short tv ads for upcoming homegames. Wht did not media or city not promote the team? A short 10 to 15 second clip at the end of the sports section on WFMJ or WKBN hardlly counts as promting. As for high prices for concessions and a $5.00 parking fee the city of Youngstown set those prices and you can bet that turned quite a few away. Th team has no control over that or the politics of city officials nor does Zolden.

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8Metz10987(145 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

As for Zoldens apprent attitude could it be he is fed up with all the naysayers and douters and just does not care anymore? That would wear on most people really quickly so really i don't blame him as he can only do so much and I doubt the Figure Skaing Association went out of there way to sell tickets since they feel it is not their responsibilty but Zolden and the teams which in my book is self centered by them. I hope the team stays and would be sad and ma at the same time if wee lose another sports team to money sand politics which will ruin ny good thing in short order.

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9Metz10987(145 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

As for tickets prices going up that was done in order to try to offeset fees for not reaching 1,500 fans. The USHL averages just 2,646 fans as of today making a aversage of 2,000 fans unrealistic as 10 of the 16 teams average from 284 to 2,667 fans. The city likely did not reach that before adding that to the contract.

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10phantomfan(2 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Like I said, I understand the need to raise prices, but those increases priced a lot of people out of the market. As far as the city goes, yes I agree with you that they have not done much to promote the team. Lastly, regarding who owns or opperates the Ice Zone, I am merely suggestiong that whoever does, look at some similar venues to try to improve their operations. Maybe they have done this, I don't know, but it may be worth a try.

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11Metz10987(145 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

True I am not entirely sure but it sounds lijke he has no control over the Ice Zones Operation.

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12icemom14(2 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Metz, you are uninformed. Bruce Zoldan owns And controls everything about the Ice Zone. And make no mistake about it, the figure skating club has supported Phantoms hockey and the Ice Zone since day one. How about this? If you like the Phantoms games so much, sell at least 5season tickets to NEW ticket subscribers, and hockey in the valley will continue. Let us know how you do. I'm not in sales. I'm a mom who sacrifices already to afford to patronize a local skating rink. I am not expecting the owner to allow use of the rink free of charge. But i am not able to buy season tickets just to have the opportunity to buy ice at the ice zone.

Our club has worn the Phantoms name with pride. We are a group of about 50 families. How can we sell 1000 season tickets?

If the marketing team at Phantoms hasn't figured out how to sell tickets, how can I?

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13Metz10987(145 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Neither am I. Again if he owns it he would personnaly be able to keep it open. It says nothing on their website about Zolden owing the Ice Zone. Not saying you are not being truthful but if you each sold jsut 20 tickets with 50 members as a group you will sell 1000 tickets. That can't be that hard with 200,000 people in our. I am sure you have tried but again why give up so soon?

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14Metz10987(145 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

By the way Zolden does not own the ice Zone Willam Weimer of B. J. Allen does. So like I said this is not in Zolden/s control.

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15Metz10987(145 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago


This article from back in febuary proves Zolden does not in fact own the Ice Zone nor has any control over it's operations.

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16Jcsteel(3 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Zoldan is B. J . Allen! He is the owner/ President of B.J. Allen and he is the owner of the Ice Zone. Please stop posting falsehoods. Why are you so quick to defend him? Hmmmm? And why should the families of skaters who spend thousands, yes that's right, thousands of dollars for their children to skate at the Ice Zone be responsible for selling 1000 NEW season tickets when the Covelli and the Phantoms haven't been able to do it?! These families have done nothing but support but the rink only to be maligned by people like you who know nothing about it.

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17ytownicesportsupport(5 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

WOW Metz I would like to know WHERE you are getting your information from?! Check your resources...TOTALLY mistaken...

WE, the skating families, didn't give up, we were given up on...WE, the skating families, planned and asked NUMEROUS groups and businesses who showed little to no interest. So we went a different route to plan a great event on our OWN to be held at the facility. That was CANCELLED as well.

I think before you post things that are FALSE you should double check your facts.

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18Jcsteel(3 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

P.S. Metz you also need to learn how to read besides being completely misinformed. Quote directly from this article, second paragraph: "Bruce Zoldan — who owns both the team that plays its home games at the Youngstown-owned Covelli Centre and the indoor ice-skating facility in Boardman — said reaction from Ice Zone families to the Phantoms’ ticket deal has been poor."
Our reaction is poor? And you think it's so easy to go out and sell 1000 tickets at a minimum of $240.00 each? We have always thought of the Ice Zone as our home away from home with the amount of time we as skating/hockey families spend there. Apparently Mr. Zoldan has no respect for the people who have supported HIS business for many years.

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19PalRat(3 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

What do you see listed as the last "Partner" below?

BBB file opened: November 13, 1998
Business started: 03/01/1997
Business Management
Mr. Skip Mackall, General Manager
Mr. David Burda, Partner
Mr. Thomas Hutch, Partner
Mr. Bruce Zoldan, Partner

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20uetz(38 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Face it. Ice skating, hockey, etc. just isn't popular around here. Bad business venture for this area. Probably wouldn't do bad in the suburbs of a more densely populated city, but not so much around here.

Mr. Zoldan has funded that Ice Zone operation since day 1 and I applaud him for that. He tried to bring a good thing to the Mahoning County and it has sapped all the life out of him that he is going to let it. He is tired and has thrown in the towel and I cannot say I blame him one bit.

But before people start condemning him, how about you put yourself in his position and ask yourself if you would have poured $1,000,000+ of your own money into a sinking business, in the hopes that you incite a mircale to happen and the public miraculously begins buying tickets again.

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21alyx007(1 comment)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

The Ice Zone would be a good business if it were properly managed. First off, they have numerous skate rental boys that are always screwing around I always see them playing football, watching TV, ect. Its just ridiculous. Secondly, the managers there when they are completely dead dont send anyone home? One saturday I walked in for Public session I saw about 5 employees standing around and their manager plopped down in front of the TV watching golf.Thats wasted money!!!! and thirdly, since when is it Figure Skating parents responsibility to keep someone else's business open? Zoldan has plenty of money, it is just crewel to put the burden of selling YOUR TEAMS tickets on hard working parents who only are looking out for their children. You knew they would help, since their children are so involved with their sport so you raised their hopes of the ice zone staying open just to see if they can bring in some $$ for you and when they couldnt reach you absurd goal of 1000 sold tickets you tore them down and blamed the the closing on them. Wow, Zoldan your one conniving SOB.

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22ytownicesportsupport(5 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Totally agree with you UETZ, there was a point in time when it was an enjoyable atmosphere at the Ice Zone. That place was a great place to be on weekends and during the week for practices.

There was never a weekend that you didn't have at least 3-4 hockey games, high school and youth games. There wasn't a weekend that you didn't have a PACKED Phantoms crowd. Hard to believe, YSU even got a turn out at games. Lessons had to happen three times a week for the skating program and hockey stick time sessions barely had any room on them. The pro shop had booming sales of apparel and equipment.

So yes, if I was in Mr. Zoldan's case the decline in participation in all I have to offer would make me stop and think "why are my numbers so low, why am I no longer making any money" and then, maybe if I went to my location every so often and could see the decline of the building, the horrible upkeep and cleanliness, maybe then my eyes would be open to the fact that obviously SOMETHING isn't right here.

Stop and take a chance and listen to your customers Mr. Zoldan, maybe not so much your "right hand" people. People are leaving to go to rinks that have a proper structure and upkeep. That can sell people ice time when they want to turn over their money, not be turned away because no one wants to wake up earlier and be there at the building, or be there any later then they have to.

It would take some time, but if you get the right people helping, that rink can be something great. There are a million suggestions constantly going around the rink. Bring an exercise area upstairs, bring back the bands, turn the other rink into a indoor soccer or baseball cages, bring back the PHANTOMS!

It isn't because of the decline in participation of ice sports. That the demand isn't here in this area. There are groups coming from all over the state and surrounding areas that want ice time. Not just for the use of playing hockey or figure skating...try sled hockey, broomball, and more! Previous poster even said they were taking lessons but are now going elsewhere. It is kind of like that saying "if you build it, they will come"....make some changes, reopen, and invite people to see the new!

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23ytownicesportsupport(5 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

DOGBYTE though I do believe that we are fighting for the same side...I think you need to look in to your statement of "competent qualified coaches".

All of the coaches for figure skating have to take numerous certification requirements. Hockey had the coaches...but they don't want to be associated with the rink. Have moved on to others.

What do the followers get left with, the ones who have been faithful to the rink get? Nada...zip...nothing!

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24ytownicesportsupport(5 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Shoot, remember the Poland Hockey Team? That club was amazing. Canfield is still going strong. Even the Mooney/Ursuline Hockey Program was amazing.

I think it did give EVERYONE a chance to step back and look at the bigger picture. The skating families being placed under pressure to sell tickets, Mr. Zoldan realizing something isn't right, Ice Zone management time to step up (still haven't seen that)...it has definitely made people look at their options and make choices.

Hopefully by this article and some of our comments alone, local businesses and the Covelli Center can see what a difference these sports make in many kids and adults lives. Hopefully we can pick up where we left off...

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25sk8tred(1 comment)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Adding to the last "dogbyte" comment ... Hey Brucie baby, when you leave and turn off the lights at The Zone don't let the door hit you in your pompous ass. You've sold the city of Boardman and all of the entire greater Mahoning Vally down the river. I would urge all local residents to boycott Zoladn's Phantom Fireworks and buy elsewhere in OH & PA. Phantoms isn't the only business around!

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26sdj66(2 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

Laughable....maybe the parents saw the plan for what it really was Bruce...overt extortion of a captive group of people you thought you could hold hostage for your gain. You can't put asses in the seats so you were looking to punish a group of families to cover the $75K that you are now going to have to pay the city? WTF? Carve it out of your horse race winnings buddy. Why don't you simply sell the place to people who know how to run an ice rink Bruce...unlike the hacks and seriously lazy-assed kids with zero oversight that you have working ( and use the term very loosely) there now. I also now know a ton of folks who have purchased their last ever Phantom fireworks.......As far as the Phantoms hockey team goes....keep playing hard guys...we do support you and the team...when we can afford to.

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27Metz10987(145 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

I see three busniess parnters. As for my info it cae from a earlier article back in Febauary on the Ice zone possibly closing. The info most be wrong which is not my fault but this paper that had wrong info. It clearly had someone else being the owner when in fact it looks like Zolden now owns it.

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28miasmom(1 comment)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

I personally would like to see the Phantoms return to the Ice Zone...there was never a game that wasn't either sold out or damn near close! I understand that there wasn't a lot of space there, but isn't that the point of a successful business, people actually wanting / fighting to be there. I would love to watch the Phantoms play, being so close to the ice and being able to watch kids having a great time skating on the ice rink behind it. To me the Phantoms lost a lot when they moved to the Covelli Centre. I think if you took that money that was wasted, put in into fixing up the Ice Zone that it could one day be a great success. It's almost embarrassing to see the Phantoms play at Covelli. It's so empty. The cost of parking, the cost of food, the cost of a ticket. It's expensive. You once could go to the Ice Zone, with a family of four and could afford to have a nice night out. Gone are the days. If you need more space, push back a wall, put more bleachers in, serve better food and people will come back.

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29lumper(291 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

now the big question is, what's boardman going to do with this eyesore ? i'll bet they won't do anything to annoy mr. zoldan. and yes, he let the place deteriorate to the point where it is now a sh&^hole.

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30dawn421(265 comments)posted 2 years, 2 months ago

personally i could care less. I do not go there because i have better things to do with the money. Maybe if the prices were affordable it could stay open.

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