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Puck may stop here on hockey franchise
Greensboro News & Record Editorial
April 29, 2002
If you grew up on bush-league hockey in Greensboro, where tough, marginally talented guys with big hearts, small paychecks and an abiding love for this town played for the old Generals in •the old coliseum, this is hard to say.
But at some point, local sports in this community will have to survive on their own merits as marketable commodities. This, unfortunately, includes the Generals.
Bless his soul, Generals co-owner Art Donaldson took a big chance when he bought the franchise three years ago. He has sunk tons of money into the struggling team. In a nod to tradition, he revived the old Generals name. And, as an owner of the Generals and the town's arena football team, the Prowlers, he and partner Rocco Scarfone seem genuinely committed to keeping minor-league sports in an increasingly indifferent town.
But at some point you have to say no mas and cut your losses.
Frankly, the Generals are not very good. They have performed poorly at the gate and on the ice for all three seasons of their existence.
Counting the last two years of the Carolina Monarchs and the first three years of the Generals, Greensboro's hockey teams have seen nothing but last place for five consecutive seasons.
The team drew only 2,900 fans per home game this season and sold only 250 season tickets this year.
And it lost a lot of money.
The Greensboro Generals have been getting the cold shoulder from fans. All too often, they skate in front of empty seats.
Photo by Justin Appenzeller / News & Record
This is a hard pill for sports boosters to swallow in a town that once saw its minor-league hockey team, the old Greensboro Monarchs, set national attendance records with crowds of 20,000-plus.
Now the team is negotiating with the Greensboro Coliseum for a better deal, namely, cheaper building usage fees for weeknights. But coliseum Managing Director Matt Brown isn't so sure he wants to do that. Aside from less attractive weeknight dates in the arena, the Generals also occupy more premium weekend dates as well. Among the 36 dates on their schedule last season, 24 fell on weekends; Brown might do better marketing those dates to more lucrative entertainment events.
You could argue, of course, that sports, like cultural events, enrich the fabric of life here. They are a viable entertainment option, from Bats games on a cool summer night to the human pinball machine that is arena football in the air-conditioned coliseum.
There is a surge of pride even among local cynics when you mention that the city will host both the ACC women's and men's basketball tournaments next year.
But it is hard to justify the coliseum – which does not make money — further underwriting a team that does not make money to play for a populace that does not come to games.
And it is even harder to justify the taxpayer subsidizing something he or she obviously can do without.
We are reminded of the scene in the Harrison Ford/Tommy Lee Jones movie version of "The Fugitive." Jones' relentless cop corners Ford's fugitive in the mouth of a drainage tunnel high above a dam.
"I didn't kill my wife," Ford says, hoping desperately for a shred of sympathy.
"I don't care," Jones flatly replies.
When it comes to minor-league hockey, Greensboro may not care anymore, either.