There aren’t many instances of a minor-league baseball team successfully managing an arena as well, but the owners of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs (Class AAA; International League) are making a play to manage a new arena housing an AHL team.
The AHL team in question: the Adirondack Phantoms, formerly the Philadelphia Phantoms. The Brooks Group, which bought the Phantoms from the Philadelphia Flyers, have been working on a new-arena plan in downtown Allentown for several years and has the inside track to manage the arena, despite the pitch from IronPigs owners Joe Finley and Craig Stein. Their pitch: they’re run the arena (expected to cost between $80 million and $100 million), the city would own the hockey team, and they’d split the proceeds, according to the Morning Call.
Having spent a lot of time examining arena management on our sister Arena Digest site, it’s pretty clear to us that well-run minor-league teams should have the capacity to management arenas if they’re already successfully managing a ballpark. We’re talking about the same sorts of procurement, the same basic kinds of maintenance, etc. Now, the relationships between a hockey team and an arena is way different than between a baseball team and a ballpark: the IronPigs were smart to seek to merely manage the arena and not own the team. Baseball teams make up a huge percentage of ballpark revenues, but typically a hockey team generates less than half the revenues of a successful arena. Hockey teams rarely run their own arenas because their needs are a smaller subsection of the larger arena picture.
Despite the interest and general popularity of Finley and Stein in City Hall, it looks like the city will allow the team to manage the arena. Perhaps not the best of plans, as the folks in Broomfield, Colorado can tell you.
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