2003 - 2004
July 22, 2004
Life after the Generals
It's time for the Greensboro Coliseum's management to focus not on the past but on options for the future. It needs tenants who can pay the rent.
The East Coast Hockey League's decision Tuesday to sever its ties with the city doesn't come as a surprise. The league set a deadline for new owners to step forward and assume financial responsibility for the Greensboro Generals. The deadline passed; the new owners never materialized.
The league's action, however, does leave the coliseum in a lurch, with no permanent tenant and dozens of open dates once filled by the Generals. Despite the controversy over how to keep the financially troubled franchise afloat, we suspect that no one is cheering the news.
Indeed, there were times when professional hockey prospered in Greensboro. Fans and foes alike will be sorry to see the team pack up its bags for good.
Despite the best efforts of Coliseum Director Matt Brown to keep the team out of the red, this week's decision seemed inevitable. The Generals posted a $59,187 loss last season, despite the city's unprecedented move to assume financial responsibility for the team for a year while Brown sought new owners. And despite a winning season.
The ultimate cost to taxpayers could be even higher if a group of local businessmen doesn't come through with a pledge to contribute $200,000 to the team's expenses. Uncertainty over that payment is further proof the city had no business subsidizing a private sports franchise - struggling or not. The Generals had lost money for four years in a row as season ticket sales and attendance flagged.
Taxpayers said as much when Brown asked the city this spring to continue the unusual arrangement for yet another season. Constituents flooded members of the City Council with e-mails urging them to get their priorities straight. Hockey is a luxury that should be supported by its fans, they said. Other city services, such as police and fire protection, are not.
The council wisely decided in June to stop financing the team, although it did leave the door open for Brown to continue managing it if new owners could be found. Brown says he had three prospects and was close to striking a deal.
All that is history now, and it's time for Brown and the city to look to the future. The coliseum needs tenants who can pay the rent, and it must seek out more promising long-term alternatives to fill the void left by the Generals.
One such option is joining the smaller and less competitive Southern Professional Hockey League or signing up another arena football team. Onetime tournament events might also be lucrative.
The entire city benefits 'when the coliseum is booked, so Brown should focus his attention on filling the empty dates with tenants who don't need a handout to survive.