2003 - 2004
April 7, 2004
Generals may need city's help next year
The city manager says he doesn't want supporting the franchise to become a permanent arrangement.
BY MATT WILLIAMS
GREENSBORO - The lead owner of the Greensboro Generals said he will ask the city to run the minor-league hockey team again next season unless an investor steps in to buy the team out of debt.
Generals Brigade President Bill Black said there hasn't been an overwhelming response to efforts to raise money from residents to support the franchise.
Black said that "unless there is a private investor that steps in right away, the city will be involved" in the team's operation.
Bill Black - Photo Credit: The News & Record
For the past season, the city-owned Greensboro Coliseum has financed and run the team under an agreement to keep the franchise from folding. After the team's former owners lost money in four straight seasons, the coliseum agreed to pay the Generals' expenses and take in its revenues while Black's group raised money to buy out the team.
With the Generals' season now over, coliseum Managing Director Matt Brown said he was confident that the team's expenses will be held to $1.25 million and that the team's overall budget would come close to breaking even. Brown said he would make a decision this summer whether to continue running the team.
"We're prepared to do whatever is necessary to keep and maintain hockey," Brown said.
City Manager Ed Kitchen confirmed that the city hasn't agreed to run the franchise next season. Kitchen has said that, while he is open to the city supporting the franchise, he doesn't want it to be a permanent arrangement.
At a news conference Tuesday aimed at spurring season ticket sales for next year, Black said he was upbeat about the team and what he saw as growing support. The team hopes to double its season ticket base to 1,000 by focusing on local businesses.
But afterward, Black said an effort to get hockey supporters to buy $1,000 shares in the team had received a smaller response when it was tried a few years ago. Even a smaller-scale drive to raise $200,000 this year to offset some of the city's expenses has run into trouble, he said. Black blamed the fund raising troubles on negative publicity, legal complications and what he said was a lack of support from the City Council for the Generals' efforts.
"It's good for them to pat me on the back ... but they need to take a stand," Black said, noting that none of the nine council members attended the press conference.
Council member Sandy Carmany, who is the council's representative to the coliseum's advisory board, said the team wouldn't have been run by the coliseum this year unless it had the full support of the City Council.
Carmany said she would want to look at the team's bottom line this year before deciding to sign on for another season.
The Generals' 36 home games help keep the coliseum profitable, she said, but the city shouldn't run the team indefinitely.
"If they can't get enough investors for the team, then what does that tell you about the sport?" Carmany asked.
Brown said no matter who runs the team next year, it is important to start building a season-ticket base. Brown said he was able to trim the team's expenses this year but that the team needed to boost ticket revenue and sponsorships.
"The ultimate goal is to make the team viable going forward," Brown said.
Contact Matt Williams at 373-7004 or email@example.com