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Phantoms owner said this is his ‘last-ditch effort’ for hockey in Youngstown

Published: Fri, March 15, 2013 @ 12:05 a.m.

‘The bottom line is this is do or die,’ Zoldan says

By David Skolnick



The owner of the Youngstown Phantoms said an attempt to sell 1,500 season tickets for the hockey team “is my last-ditch effort to keep hockey” at the city-owned Covelli Centre.

The junior hockey league team unveiled a 2013-14 season-ticket plan with new pricing fees, a new seating structure and exclusive benefits for those who buy season tickets.

“The bottom line is this is do or die” for the Phantoms, said Bruce Zoldan, team owner.

This effort comes as the team’s future at the center is uncertain.

The Phantoms’ home-game attendance has been among the worst in the United States Hockey League since the team started nearly four seasons ago.

The team needed to average at least 2,000 people a game per season for the first four years at the center for it to play a fifth season under a contract it has with the city. It hasn’t reached that number in any of its seasons. The team’s fourth regular season ends in mid-April.

The league says the team’s average attendance is about 1,700 while the center says the average number of people who actually show up to watch the Phantoms is about 1,200.

To stay another season, the Phantoms would be required under contract to pay $75,000 to the city.

Zoldan doesn’t want to pay that money. He said selling 1,500 season tickets — or even 1,000 — would show there is interest in keeping the team in Youngstown.

There currently are less than 500 season-ticket holders.

A successful season-ticket campaign hopefully would persuade city officials to let the Phantoms play at the center next year without the $75,000 fee, Zoldan said.

“I’m here to give it one good last shot, and I hope the public will support us,” he said. “We’re going to try hard to make it happen.”

While hopeful of success, Zoldan said, “The Mahoning Valley doesn’t really understand hockey. When you get the people [to games], they come back, but it’s been a difficult challenge to get people to Phantoms games.”

Game tickets now range from $6 to $25.

Just last week, Zoldan touted the least-costly tickets saying, “A family can buy tickets for $6 each.”

But under the new ticketing plan, the $6 seats, behind one of the goalies and near where the Zamboni machine access is to the ice, are eliminated.

“We weren’t selling many of those,” he said Thursday. “We’ll have promotions with family four-packs” of tickets at a discounted rate at certain games. The team hasn’t determined the price of those family special tickets, he said.

The new pricing plan gives discounts to those buying season tickets for the team’s home games. Also, most tickets bought at least 48 hours before a game will be cheaper than now.

The least-expensive tickets, behind the goalie on the west side of the arena, would be $8 a game for season-ticket holders. The tickets would be $10 if bought at least 48 hours before a game and $12 on game day. Those same seats now sell for $15.

The most-expensive tickets for center ice behind the penalty box remains $25 for single-game seats bought early or on game day.

The ticket price drops to $15 a game if you buy a season-ticket package for $450. But season tickets for those two sections also require a $150 personal-seat license paid to the center. The $150 only ensures its owner those guaranteed seats for hockey.

In effect, that fee would add $5 to each ticket in those sections.

The center sells PSLs for $300 a year plus the cost of event tickets. The center currently is running a special for $250 a year.

Most club-seat owners don’t attend hockey games, said Eric Ryan, the center’s executive director.

There are 539 seats in those two sections with about 250 club seats sold, he said.

Ryan declined to comment on the Phantoms’ season-ticket plans.

Phantom season-ticket holders would receive numerous perks including special events, access to the center’s VIP lounge, 20 percent off team merchandise, and discounts for Zoldan’s other businesses, Phantom Fireworks and the Ice Zone indoor ice-skating facility.

The Ice Zone, which is slated to close May 15 because of declining business, could play a key role in the survival of the Phantoms.

Zoldan said if Ice Zone employees and families of figure skaters and hockey players at the Boardman facility can sell 1,000 season tickets, he would keep the facility open for another year.


1youngspartanrepublican(92 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

Should've let the Cavs bring their D-League team here instead of the antiquated Canton Civic Center, but the hockey team was more important. Capitalism is all about risks, and Zoldan swung and missed on this one.

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2DwightK(1535 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

Zoldan should be congratulated for trying something new but if people aren't hockey fans a new venture may be warranted. It's all about butts in the seats.

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3silentgrandpa(22 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

Youngstown is a football town not a hockey town. Just check the attendance for football games from pee-wee, high school and ysu.

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4busyman(239 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

Bruce Zolan tried something and lost a lot of money doing something different for this town. Mayor Rocky Samarone should have given him the $75,000 instead of paying an outside company to tell him about the Center. And silent grandpa. Take away the grandparents, parents, step family and the pee wee up to the highschool sports in this area would colapse. Girls highschool sport in this area would not even have a following if it was not for all the grandparents and parents who attend the game. Mr Zolan deserves some credit for this attempt to provide the area with another type of sports entertainment. Why do we in this area always put down those who attempt to do somehting good. Maybe that is way some of the good people in this area raise idiots for kids that cann't even qualify for the new oil and shale jobs that are in the area. Many of you are still waiting for the steel mills to come back or Lordstown to to hire another dead end, braindead jobs for the dump down work force that is left in the area having babies and collecting welfare. Any businessman who invest his own money to expand the value of this valley should be respected and not bashed by self pitting residents of ths town.

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5icemom14(2 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

It's so disappointing to read these comments. Typical y-town negativity. Why should any business owner come to town? The Phantoms have a reputation as a winning team. We can watch players in the NHL who we watched play at our home ice! These players are in our local education system, they are volunteers in our community and role models for our kids. These players are earning scholarships to Notre dame, Michigan state and Boston university.

I say thank you to Bruce Zoldan for providing the chance to have my child involved in a sport that leads to discipline, achievement and accomplishment.

Tournament and competition weekends pay off in patronage to local hotels and restaurants. You want me to think that football and cheerleading are my children's opportunity for involvement because we live in Youngstown?

I'm sorry to see this end...if you haven't been to a Phantoms game, check it out. I hope the tide turns...we can't afford to lose something that won't be replaced.

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6drpautot(70 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

I enjoy every Phantoms game i film. I work as an intern there and those boys play their hearts out every game. It is sad to see this opportunity go away, but after all Northeast Ohio is born and bred for football, but the arena football team never flew here....so where is this a good business idea to move the team? I understand that Zoldan is a businessman after all, and he is in the business of making money, not spending it. Opening up the schedule sans games means there will be roughly 30 open dates. but doesn't that mean that there will be 30 less dates with people in the seats? maybe i am the only one here that see's this as a problem.Seems to me that you would want to keep the revenue stream coming int the downtown area, but all you naysayers can stay in your cushy Canfield and Boardman homes, fearing to venture out into your community. Have fun with living in fear and ignorance people.

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7rinkratsdad(2 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

@ hurrdurr thank you for bringing that up, your not strong arming me Mr. Zoldan. I can easily take my money elsewhere, where at least the locker room bathrooms are tolerable.

I applaud Zoldan for bringing hockey to this area but you have to market it correctly which has never been done. The IZ can easily make money, it's done all around the country, my kids know how to do it for crying out loud and their under 14 y.o.a.

The longer he "plays" around with the IZ, the more people he is going to lose to other organizations or they are just going to quit this GREAT sport. It's a shame because the Youth Hockey program is thriving here in my opinion. I have never seen so many little kids learning to skate, play and in the ADM program from this area but now that's going to end. It's a real travesty!

Check your ego at the door Bruce, grow up and let someone run the IZ who wants to make a profit and cares about the kids.

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8rinkratsdad(2 comments)posted 3 years, 3 months ago

@zz3, dude stop smoking dope or drinking your double deuce! I'm not talking about The Covelli Centre, I'm talking about The Ice Zone and Youth Hockey! I've been out of my backyard and I am well aware of what goes on in Youngstown. Who's the ding dong??

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