2003 - 2004
The Greater Greensboro Observer
July 13, 2004
Generals Still Have A Pulse - Maybe
By Jim McNally
In no uncertain terms, the Greensboro City Council, upon the advice of City Manager Ed Kitchen, edited last year's budget at least to the degree that it no longer contained any kind of proviso about funding the Greensboro Generals hockey team.
Using slightly less iffy language, a Raleigh businessman with Gate City roots has come along and said he could be interested in saving the team.
"We are looking at the preliminary numbers," said Vic Sapp, Chairman of the North Carolina AAU boys basketball program. "I think this thing can be profitable but I need make sure I can make it work before I put a team of investors together."
Sapp said the figures he has seen show an average annual loss of just under a quarter of a million dollars.
'And losing more than $200,000 is not something that really interests me, but I think I know ways to cut some of the overhead and, with the right kind of marketing, turn this thing into something that at least is not losing a ton of cash," Sapp said.
Sapp, who has studied other aspects of city spending on sports and recreation, said he would also like to see if Greensboro officials would be willing to do financially to ensure the team's vitality.
Councilmembers have been adamant that the reason they stepped in last year to keep the team from folding had more to do with maintaining what they called an "anchor tenant" at the Coliseum than it did with assisting the sports franchise, which is an otherwise private venture.
"It's not like anyone would be trying to make a fortune on this, but it still would have to be run like a business and I think that one of the biggest problems has been that no one has really come up to take charge of it," Sapp said. "I think the city is really hoping someone will come in and show some leadership."
Sapp said that marketing is paramount to ensuring the future of the team.
'And that future involves getting the kids involved," he said. "The city needs a good youth program that could evolve into something like what we have with the AAU program. Once you get the children, you get the adults, but no one has really found a way to bring the kids into this in a big way."
Sapp said that he thinks the Ice House has been a positive addition to Greensboro but that it has not been fully taken advantage of.
"One of the people I have been in talks with specializes in youth hockey programs and I also know a thing or two about youth sports," Sapp said. "But again, it's like I said, it ultimately comes down to what the numbers look like."
Sapp said one possibility would be to buy the team and relocate to another city. He said, however, that the real goal is to keep the team here.
Greensboro has been host to four different teams in three leagues - the East Coast Hockey League (presently known simply by the initials ECHL), the American Hockey League, and the NHL - since 1989.