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Phantoms owners address team's future

2012-01-09T00:55:00Z 2012-01-09T01:02:02Z Phantoms owners address team's futureBy TIM McMANUS--tmcmanus@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star
January 09, 2012 12:55 am  • 

PHILADELPHIA -- As the emotion surrounding the Adirondack Phantoms' appearance in the AHL's biggest regular season game ever begins to fade, area hockey fans awake to a sobering reality this week:

The Phantoms' tenure in Glens Falls is likely more than halfway through.

Demolition began in earnest last week on the site of the Phantoms' future home in Allentown, Pa., where team ownership recently signed a 29-year lease. Ownership is confident the arena will be ready in time for the start of the season in 2013.

With an end date in sight, the questions of what is next for Glens Falls, and whether the market has proved it can support an American Hockey League franchise, return to center stage.

In a wide-ranging discussion Friday morning as they stood rinkside at Citizens Bank Park before the Outdoor Classic, Phantoms owners Rob and Jim Brooks made their most expansive comments to date on the state of hockey in Glens Falls and what has to be done over the next season and a half to attract another AHL team to the Civic Center.

"We have this season and next season to help figure it out. Can we support a team or not?" Jim Brooks said. "The first year, if that's how it was going to be every year, I guarantee we have a team. Guaranteed. The second year, no. It'd be hard. I think you would need like an angel to help. Like a local guy, maybe wanted to buy a team and be willing to have a team there because it's good for the community and it'd be fun for him.

"But I don't believe it's either one of those two. I think what we have to do in the next two years is figure out where that needle is. And if it's closer to year one, I think we can do it. If it's closer to year two, we're not. And this is really the only chance we have because we have the team there."

In an attempt to course correct, the Brookses made sweeping changes last season, elevating Chris Porreca to the position of executive vice president and nearly turning over the entire staff by the start of the season.

So with the midway point of this season rapidly approaching, where is the needle pointing? The Brookses say that it's too early to get a complete picture, but that after a strong start, things have cooled a bit of late.

Through 17 games at the Civic Center, the Phantoms' average attendance is 3,415. That's compared to 3,203 for 39 dates last season and 3,784 for 39 in 2009-10.

After breaking the 4,000 mark four times in the first 10 home games this season, they've cracked it just once in the last seven. Last Wednesday's crowd of 2,316 for a game against Binghamton was the second smallest of the season.

"We still have some work to do. Traditionally, in any market the second half is always better than the first half and so I don't think that the determination could be made at this point," Jim Brooks said "We're moving the arrow toward (year) one. We're in the right direction, but now we really have to ramp it up the second half of this year."

A point both Brookses made clear is that the rest of the league is watching what's going on Glens Falls.

"What's great about the American Hockey League is four times a year we're with other owners and we're very open. Things are very visible to see. We're open with numbers," Jim Brooks said. "Everybody in that room knows where everybody else is. And if we can show through results that here's where our numbers are and the needle goes toward the first year, then we can do this."

Rob Brooks added:

"One thing you probably noticed is there are a couple of owners who make the trip to Glens Falls. So it's encouraging for us that people are asking us about it."

The remaining time leaves the Brookses with a delicate line to walk. They have to promote their brand in Allentown and build that business while continuing to broaden support in Glens Falls for the Phantoms.

They believe they can do both with no contradiction. They've been straightforward from the start that the Phantoms' stay in Glens Falls was temporary.

"That's why it was important for us when we came to tell the right story," Jim Brooks said. "We're going to be honest. The honest truth is we bought this team for Allentown. And we're coming in (to Glens Falls) with an opportunity to help show whether you can or can't support a team for the future. I think if you're honest you don't have to worry so much about as confusing stories."

As the more than 45,000 tickets sold for the game Friday attest, as well as the near sellout last year at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, the appetite for the Phantoms - the affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers - remains strong in Pennsylvania.

For some time, the Brookses had been looking to place a team in Allentown, which is about 60 miles northwest of Philadelphia. When the Phantoms became an option, they knew they'd never find a better fit.

"Six years ago, when we started down this path in Allentown, we even looked at the ECHL. The American Hockey League was where we wanted to be with it based on the market," Jim Brooks said. "When (Comcast Spectacor President and COO) Peter Luukko called Rob and I and said, ‘Hey, we're knocking down the Spectrum, do you want to buy the Phantoms?' It's a no-brainer. That was like a two-second conversation from that point out."

While Allentown and the Phantoms may be a natural marriage, the Brookses believe that there could be a franchise somewhere that could feel that way about Glens Falls. But much remains to be proven.

"I see it as a little similar as to when Rob and I went to those two or three games Albany had in Glens Falls ... We had to feel comfortable that this project we're working on has light at the end of the tunnel. So the people showed us that ‘Look, I'm here tonight, I'm going to support a team.' And that's what we're doing, but in more than four games," Jim Brooks said.

"Someone is in a market right now that maybe they're not sure about. We can show them and our community can show them. ... (we) can support a team. That's how you convince somebody to move there."

Copyright 2015 Glens Falls Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(20) Comments

  1. signals75
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    signals75 - January 14, 2012 9:21 am
    The fact that the attendance is higher this year than last probably has to do with the unseasonably warm weather. Wait until it drops to 10 at night with 2 ft of snow. We'll see then how many people want to walk half a mile in that to see a mediocre hockey game
  2. AHLTraveler
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    AHLTraveler - January 11, 2012 7:41 pm
    As for the Brooks Group, maybe I am being naive, but I honestly believe that they want Glens Falls to succeed. They ponied up a nice chunk of cash for the video boards when they knew they would be walking away from the investment. They put a lot of time (and again money) into giving us a new mascot which is intended to stay here after 2013. They could have easily allowed the Phantoms to go dark until things were built in Allentown. Instead they brough the team to Glens Falls knowing that it would be a tough sell. They have been honest since Day One about their plans.


    If another team is looking to move into the CC, isn't it easier for Glens Falls to sell the idea with a well-supported team already here than to walk the prospective tenant through an empty arena? Rob and Jim Brooks provided that opportunity when nobody else did.
  3. AHLTraveler
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    AHLTraveler - January 11, 2012 7:33 pm
    Going to sound off on a couple points that have been made. As a STH, I would be seriously irritated if halfway through the season the ticket prices were slashed to half of what I have already invested. I agree with management's stance. I believe the answer lies in promotions. Instead of dropping prices to $5 a seat, give away more crap. You know the CC will be packed for the bobblehead night. Which is better, selling seats for five bucks or selling seats for $15 and giving everyone a toy that costs less that $6 to buy in bulk?

  4. Peco
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    Peco - January 10, 2012 8:44 pm
    We all knew from the beginning that the Phantoms were leaving when the new arena gets built. Enjoy it while you can. Will we ever get another team? maybe, maybe not. I will continue to take my son to the games and enjoy it. And on the video boards, everybody knows that they don't work well. that was a wasted investment in my opinion. To do it right, should have gone with LCD, then you caould actually see it with out having to be right next to the screen. I know that would have cost many more dollars.
  5. PublicServant
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    PublicServant - January 10, 2012 12:33 pm
    It certainly is a bummer that we will be losing the Phantoms and maybe hockey all together. As a season ticket holder I certainly felt the emptiness with the announcement and the excitement the Phantoms have for their move. I know the Wings have been long gone by now but if I was to hear that they were returning "home" to play in the Civic Center I'd be elated. The Phantoms are returning to their fans. Yes we are their fans but we're not their home. If the Wings were to leave Grand Rapids and come to Glens Falls they'd be coming "home." Good for the Phantoms, thanks for a few years. So what has to be done in order to get a hockey team to sign a 29-year lease here? Also, please look up the Allentown Hockey Arena in a Google search. The place looks incredible! You'll understand why they are leaving when you see those renderings. As fans we need to fill the Civic Center, we need to prove that we can support a team for 29 years.
  6. straycat
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    straycat - January 10, 2012 7:47 am
    I don't think the answere to our lack of support is to charge less at the gate. This is AHL hockey, not Icehawks/Frostbite hockey. We are looking at the future of the NHL in our own building. I feel the days of filling the arena on a regular basis are gone.
    Our area which I would include Albany, will not support professional teams at any level. The Albany Firebirds of the 90's-Gone! AFL2 Conquest/Firebirds Gone! AA-Albany/Colonie Yankees-Gone, Here- Adirondack Red Wings Gone...you get the picture... With quality comes cost and we show we aren't willing to spend.
  7. AdkBos
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    AdkBos - January 09, 2012 9:24 pm
    I forgot to ask, does it drive anyone else crazy that with all of the Civic Center employees standing around, why they don't have them at the top or bottom of the sections to keep idiots from running up and down during play?
  8. AdkBos
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    AdkBos - January 09, 2012 9:21 pm
    Smpotter, I agree with you from the season ticket holders perspective. We buy our packages because we are the diehard fans, regardless of what the casual fans do. I, like you, would love to see the place packed, even if they were half-priced tickets. As far as the video boards go, I think they made the mistake of finding the cheapest option as running with it. I heard that a company offered to lease them LED boards for $60K per year and upgrade whenever newer technology was available. Also, how much more would the nicer scoreboards (like the TU Center) have cost? Also, the sound system is a disappointment as well.
  9. smpotter
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    smpotter - January 09, 2012 5:11 pm
    The decision was made to go for the cheaper resolution video screens and as the old saying goes, " You get what you pay for". When I have brought up the issue of lower ticket prices for some games, i.e., "wednesday nights, sunday afternoons, etc, management has explained to me that they don't want to lesson the product and season ticket holders would be angry that the prices were lowered. I'm a season ticket holder and I would rather see the place packed at $5 a seat or $10 bucks a seat rather than half-empty. Simple economics says that 2000 extra people will buy a lot of hot dogs, beer, nachos, merchandise, etc. I wonder if the Brook's really want hockey to succeed here? It would be harder for them to walk away if the place was rocking every night. I like for other season ticket holders to weigh in on the issue of cheaper tickets. I bet they feel the same way. When you have absentee ownership you usually have a disconnect with the area.The were very visible in Philly the other night.
  10. Tim McManus
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    Tim McManus - January 09, 2012 5:01 pm

    To clarify a couple of points of fact:@ Brian,The way their agreement is currently written, the Flyers completely control all personnel decisions, even players signed to AHL contracts. The best ownership can do is plead for better players. @smpotter,The city doesn't have to wait until after the Phantoms leave to negotiate with another team. Now that the city knows the end date, they can and have begun preparing to lure another team. The Phantom being here have no bearing on the talks with anyone else.-- Tim

  11. brian
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    brian - January 09, 2012 4:38 pm
    The video boards were an awful waste of money. I didn't support them at the time and even less so now that I see them. They're resolution is poor (just like the old-fashioned tube TVs), which makes it hard to see the very rare replays they actually show. Why don't they show replays on non-goals? Is there some AHL rule against that? Not that it would matter that much with the poor resolution.
  12. brian
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    brian - January 09, 2012 4:36 pm
    tomm27: it's my understand that while most player personnel decisions are made in Philly, there is a certain degree of autonomy by local ownership to sign free agents (eg: Hamel).
  13. tomm27
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    tomm27 - January 09, 2012 3:46 pm
    brian, I assume you are referring to the Flyers' management. The Brooks have nothing to do with the on-ice product. All player decisions are made in Philly.
  14. VTfan
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    VTfan - January 09, 2012 12:57 pm
    I don't want to bash anybody, but if we found a way to turn the lamp on a bit more often it would make it a much easier sell. Any chance the city can get their money back on the video boards? They would add so much to the game if they were done right. Seems like a lot rinks have replay right on the scoreboard. How about showing the standings during the game? or live scores? On a last thought, what is better a half full arena at 20 dollars or a full one at 10?
  15. brian
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    brian - January 09, 2012 12:26 pm
    The other lesson is that you have to put a half decent team on the ice. Doesn’t necessarily have to be a rampant team, but at least competitive. The region’s fans have proven that we’re savvy enough to not bothering as much as $23 to watch what they think will be a few hours of crap. This is the first year that the Phantoms’ management realized this from the season’s start. The quality of the product matters.
  16. smpotter
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    smpotter - January 09, 2012 11:31 am
    The Brooks Brothers talk as if they own the exclusive rights to keeping hockey in GF. They don't. Any team will be free to negotiate with the city and GFCC once the Brooks leave. I agree, move the Devils to Glens Falls! Parent owned so the city won't be on the hook and believe me, the local Devils groups is doing a better job of promoting their product than the Phantoms. At least they try and draw people with decent promotions. The Brook's have given up on GF. They are just using us while they build the arena all the time threatening us that we won't get another team without their help. I'm glad they came but its time for them to go so we can move on and secure a team that actually wants to be here.
  17. mindboggle
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    mindboggle - January 09, 2012 10:54 am
    Tim McManus said: "@mindboggle,Just a note that the attendance listed on AHL site includes the 45,000 from Outdoor Classic. The numbers I quoted are the base attendance at the GFCC.-- Tim "

    Tim,

    Thanks for the clarification. Prior to the Outdoor Classic we were somewhere around 3800 I believe. So in using my 3500 as a good low end estimate, I still think 5000 is not unreasonable.

    The theme of my original comment is that the TU Center is an awful place to watch a hockey game and that is directly apparent in their bottom of the league average attendance figure.

    Albany is at least double the size of Glens Falls and cannot draw as many fans as we can. The counter argument would be to leave the team in Albany and have our fans go there. Again, the arena is too big to support a 5000 fan game and have any semblance of a good atmosphere.

    Let them host Figure Skating and Disney On Ice, we want hockey here.
  18. Tim McManus
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    Tim McManus - January 09, 2012 10:27 am
    @mindboggle,

    Just a note that the attendance listed on AHL site includes the 45,000 from Outdoor Classic. The numbers I quoted are the base attendance at the GFCC.

    -- Tim
  19. mindboggle
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    mindboggle - January 09, 2012 8:30 am
    http://theahl.com/stats/schedule.php?view=attendance

    According to AHL Stats, out of 30 teams, we are 10th in the league in attendance.

    At the bottom of the barrel, the Rats (30th) averaging just over 2800 per game.

    It's a no brainer, move and re-brand the rats to the Civic Center. Albany has the population to better support a team, but we all know the atmosphere of a game at the TU Center is the reason for their attendance woes. It's got to be the worst place I've ever been to attend a hockey game.

    Move the team to Hockeytown USA and as part of the season pass package offer round trip travel via bus to Glens Falls with stops in Saratoga, Clifton Park, and Albany. If we maintain our 3500 attendance number and can sell another 1000-1500 tickets to the Albany, Saratoga, Clifton Park market, then we are talking 5000+ and that will surely bring us back to the glory days of the Red Wings and sell out crowds.

    There's no doubt we can do it and more doubt how Albany can with 2800?????

  20. AHLTraveler
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    AHLTraveler - January 09, 2012 7:54 am
    Just wondering if the numbers that past two seasons bear out the premise that the second half of seasons show better attendance numbers. It's a small sample size, but could at least give an indication of what to expect.

    I would expect that the numbers would support the notion that the second half attendance will be better. Traditionally, most AHL markets fight for customers during the first three months of the season. The biggest factors (league-wide) are Friday night High School football, Sunday NFL games and warm weather.

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