Decision due Friday on Phantoms’ future at Covelli

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By David Skolnick


A decision on another season for the Youngstown Phantoms junior hockey team to play its home games at the Covelli Centre will come Friday.

Eric Ryan, head of JAC Management Group, which runs the day-to-day operations at the city-owned Covelli Centre, said his decision on the Phantoms will be made Friday after Youngstown finalizes a five-year contract extension with his company.

City council voted 7-0 Wednesday for the new deal. The city’s board of control will vote today on the contract.

After that vote, the contract will be official, and Ryan said he would be prepared to make a quick decision on the hockey team.

There is a provision in the team’s contract allowing the city to renew a fifth season at no cost or ask the Phantoms to pay a $75,000 fee.

Indications are the Phantoms will get another year at the center without being asked to pay a fee.

The team has struggled with attendance during the four years it’s played at the Covelli Centre.

It’s finished among the bottom three teams in the United States Hockey League each of those four years in terms of attendance.

The JAC-city deal to be finalized today, and to start Jan. 1, 2014, calls for the company to receive $99,200 annually as a management fee.

The deal eliminates an automatic consumer-price-index pay increase in JAC’s current contract, which expires at the end of this year. The increase took JAC’s annual fee from $96,000 in 2009 to $99,200 this year.

Also, JAC’s bonus for operating surplus at the center that exceeds $100,000 annually will increase beginning in 2014.

The company received a 10- percent bonus for all operating surplus over $100,000. The new contract increases that to 12 percent in 2014, 14 percent in 2015 and to 15 percent annually in the final three years.

The center finished 2012 with a record operating surplus of $320,787. JAC received a $32,079 bonus last year. That would be $38,494 if the bonus was 12 percent instead of 10 percent.

The city will have Ryan negotiate a reduced contract with SMG, the center’s national consulting firm, when that deal expires at the end of the year, said city Finance Director David Bozanich.

SMG would continue to help JAC book events at the center under a new deal, Bozanich said.

SMG is making $86,000 annually this year for its consulting fee, and like JAC, it receives bonuses when the center’s operating surplus exceeds $100,000.

But instead of a flat 10-percent bonus, SMG gets 15 percent when the operating surplus reaches $200,000, and 20 percent when the surplus hits $300,000.

SMG made close to $40,000 last year in bonuses.

With the bonuses and fee, SMG received about $125,000 last year.

Bozanich told city council on Wednesday that the reduced contract with SMG would save the city about $150,000 annually, a figure that is more than the company received in 2012.

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