The St. John’s IceCaps have some of the highest costs in the league, says the team’s chief operating officer, making financial support from the city a necessity.
St. John’s IceCaps goaltender Eddie Pasquale covers the puck with his leather lobster following a shot on net by the Syracuse Crunch during first-period action of AHL in this 2013 photo. — Telegram file photo
Glenn Stanford, also the team’s governor, told The Telegram that when the Winnipeg Jets offered a one-year extension to stay in St. John’s, it came with a price tag.
He won’t say what that price tag was, but a confidential St. John’s memo — “I’m surprised to see it in the document,” he said — leaked to CBC pegs it at $1.5 million. “We thought it was a little bit high, and we went back to our stakeholders and partners and said, ‘Does this make any sense for us to do? We get an extra year, you get an extra 38 dates. We now have two years in order to look for an American Hockey League partner versus six or eight months.’”
One of the reasons the IceCaps aren’t moving yet is Thunder Bay isn’t ready to host the team, but Winnipeg had options other than letting the IceCaps stay an extra year in St. John’s, said Stanford.
“They could have played out of the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. American Hockey League teams have done that before,” he said. “Philadelphia did it for a while, playing out of the same NHL building. I don’t know that to be for sure, but I’m sure they would have options to do it. The decision for us, quite frankly, was does it make sense to keep this going for another year, keep 38 dates at Mile One, while we’re looking for an extension, albeit maybe with another partner, or do we pack our bags in April and we’re done?”
St. John’s has agreed to increase the subsidy to St. John’s Sports and Entertainment, the corporation that runs Mile One, by $350,000 a year for the next two years, allowing it to cut the team’s rental cost. The team has also raised ticket prices by an average of $2 a ticket, according to the team’s communications director, but Stanford says prices for corporate partners haven’t been increased.
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“We lost some season ticket holders,” he said. “We had three-year commitments from people over the first three years, and then we lost people when we thought there was only one year (left), so we’ve got a job to do to try to at least get the revenue stream back to where it was for the first three years.”
The IceCaps have had one of the highest rents in the American Hockey League for the last three years, said Stanford, and pays a travel subsidy for other teams coming to St. John’s.
“If we didn’t take a look at this as a partnership moving forward, the answer would have been simple. We would have been done in April,” said Stanford.
The chief operating officer wouldn’t say how much rent the team is charged, or whether the team turns a profit.
“I’m not privy to say that. That’s private business,” he said. “There’s no question we’re successful. But we wouldn’t be asking — the numbers that we’re talking about here are significant, and that’s the reason we look at it more as a partnership. I’m surprised a little bit by the reaction. But we look at it more as a partnership in saying here’s the cards that are on the table, and if the answer’s no then the answer’s no, and then we’re done in April and everybody moves on. But I think it’s to everybody’s best interest to have 38 dates more in that building.”