Hockey League (UHL)
County Veterans Memorial Arena
Broome, Icemen Save Deal
July 3, 1997
Tom Wilbur, Staff Writer
In an abrupt turnaround, Broome County officials and hockey team owners went from irreconcilable foes to best friends Wednesday as they announced a deal to bring the B.C. Icemen to the Veterans Memorial Arena.
With the help of the United Hockey League Commissioner Richard Brosal, the final deal was struck in a brief conference call between County Executive Jeffrey P Kraham and team owners, Kraham said Wednesday afternoon. Just a day earlier co-owner Patrick Snyder expressed bitterness and disappointment with the failure of the county to complete the deal.
On Tuesday, Snyder and Kraham said negotiations had fallen apart and time was running out with the season just four months away. Each blamed the other for the failure to close the deal, which Kraham said was “inches apart.”
When questioned at a hastily organized new conference Wednesday to announce the deal, representatives from both sides were reluctant to give details regarding the sticking points of the contract the day before or what caused the sudden breakthrough.
“We both agreed hockey should be in Binghamton,” said Mark Palombo, a co-owner of the team with Snyder. “There were some tensions. After a break, we came together and hammered out the details.”
Some of those details involved the lucrative concession business.
The new owners wanted 30 percent of concessions sales, while the county offered 10 percent. The owners settled on a 20 percent take of the gross concession revenues after the first year, if the county is successful in taking over operations from the private vendor, which has a contract with the county until 2000. The county is trying to negotiate an early end to that contract.
The hockey team would get no revenue from concessions the first year, but it would be first in line to run the concessions if the county opted not to after the contract with the private vendor expired.
The county now receives about a third of the concessions sales related to hockey, which last year amounted to about $120,000.
Kraham said he was especially happy with an agreement for the county to get 20 percent of the net proceeds if the team were sold. In return, the county is not charging the team rent for the first year.
“We were right on the mark with most issues.” Snyder said about negotiations before the breakdown this week. “There were a couple of things that needed to be hammered out.”
Although the agreement was […], Kraham said he is sure the deal will not unravel again. He characterized the first breakdown as a “misunderstanding.”
“Everything is settled,” he said. “We’ve reached an agreement. It was a very quick conversation.”
AHL hockey proved to be a major boost to the county, accounting for nearly 40 percent of the $626,000 on revenue from the 6,000-seat arena in 1996. Some question whether the less prominent United Hockey league will measure up.
“I wouldn’t be going up to see them play,” said Joseph Drum, a Binghamton Rangers fan who attended games with his girlfriend and friends. “This league is four levels down. When I first heard they were coming, my reaction was, ‘Can I play?’…If you have a family of four, you’re going to spend (almost) $40 for bush league hockey.”
While some AHL fans say they will not tolerate paying $8 or $9 a ticket plus concessions to take in a United Hockey League contest, county officials say a contract with a non-AHL club was the Southern Tier’s best hope for a piece of the lucrative hockey business.
If the deal with the Icemen were to fall through, “It’s still a long shot to get an AHL team in here a year from now,” said County Legislator Daniel Schofield, minutes before the deal with the Icemen was finalized.
Securing a contract with the United Hockey League has its economic points, even if it’s of lesser caliber than the AHL because it will help pay the bill for the Broome County Arena.
“It’s really a bottom-line thing,” Schofield said. Without a hockey team, the county would have to book seven events, such as concerts, to make up for the revenue lost with the Rangers who moved to Hartford, Conn., last month.