2003 - 2004
April 31, 2004
Council to decide Generals' fate
City Manager Ed Kitchen will make a recommendation Tuesday on whether the city should continue financing and managing the Greensboro Generals.
BY MATT WILLIAMS
GREENSBORO - Just days after the Greensboro Generals minor-league hockey team ended its season, barely missing league playoffs, Matt Brown launched an effort to sell season tickets for next year.
Brown, manager of the city-owned Greensboro Coliseum, secured a schedule for the team, which he manages through an arrangement with the franchise's private owners, and asked for money in the coliseum's budget to operate it.
In the schedule, Brown won the team four more games on lucrative weekends than last season. And so far, fans have put down deposits for almost 300 season tickets for next season.
But the Generals' future under city management remains uncertain as elected officials decide this month whether the city should remain in the business of financing and managing a professional sports team.
City Manager Ed Kitchen will make a recommendation on Tuesday to the City Council in his proposed budget on whether the coliseum should continue its arrangement with the team's private owners. For the past season, the city paid the team's expenses, including players' and coaches' salaries, and received revenue from ticket sales, concessions and advertising.
Council members informally approved the deal last summer, when the team's original owner, Art Donaldson, said he couldn't bankroll the money, losing the team after four years playing at the coliseum. To keep the Generals, a major tenant, - and prevent the coliseum from losing money - Brown convinced Donaldson to lease the franchise to a new ownership group led by local businessmen Don Brady and Bill Black.
The new ownership group lacked financial backing, so Brown arranged for the city to finance the team's operations until Brady and Black could find additional investors. But those investors have largely not come forward, the new owners said, because of negative reaction to the city's involvement and lawsuits filed against Donaldson and his franchise. Brady said he and Black want to see hockey stay but are in no position to run a team now.
"I've got to run a business and he's got to run a business," Brady said. "The only practical person to run the team is the coliseum."
Council member Sandy Carmany, the council's liaison with the coliseum, said this week the owners' lack of fund-raising success and legal complications make it unlikely the council will want the coliseum to continue running the team.
Council member Claudette Burroughs-White said she favored the city stopping the arrangement.
"If there's a way for us not to be involved, then that would be my preference," she said. Brown said he is working to sever ties with Donaldson's franchise by negotiating with league officials and owners to start fresh with a different franchise. Commissioner Brian McKenna confirmed there were active discussions to grant a new franchise, though it may or may not involve Brady and Black as the private investors.
"We're trying to remove this distractive, negative association with the team so investors can be attracted and the team can move on," Brown said.
Matt Brown - Photo Credit: The News & Record
Brown also wants to restructure the employment contract with coach Rick Adduono, which expires today. Adduono has been a city employee since last June, but Brown would prefer his salary be paid through the league, much' like the team's players are.
Rick Adduono - Photo Credit: THe News & Record
Although the team's operations are expected to break even this season, Brown has said not having the team could hurt the coliseum. Revenue from concessions, parking and luxury boxes could drop if the coliseum was empty for the team's 36-game home schedule.
The coliseum predicts it will lose $1.8 million this year and again next year. Any losses it incurs are made up by general tax revenue.
Deputy City Manager Mitchell Johnson said it is hard to tell what kind of effect the loss of the team would have. The coliseum could use the extra free nights to book more concerts in the team's place, he said.
"Plus or minus, hockey is a bust, but we've gotten concerts that we've made a quarter million dollars on," Johnson said.
Council member Robbie Perkins said, "the idea of owning a hockey team for the long term is not something we want to do."
Ed Kitchen - Photo Credit: The News & Record
Kitchen will present his recommendation to the council Tuesday evening, and the issue is expected to be decided by the end of June.
Contact Matt Williams at 373-7004 or email@example.com