After years of trying, it’s now not “if” but “when” Germain Arena and the Everblades will be sold.
“I think the beginning of next hockey season (October) would be the earliest that a sale would be finalized,” said Everblades president and general manager Craig Brush. “Until there’s a sale, it’s business as usual.”
For the Blades and their fans, the means Greg Poss will return as head coach for what figures to be another playoff team (15 playoff appearances in 15 years). After next season, what’s the future of pro hockey in Southwest Florida?
“It makes no sense to buy the arena and not have a hockey team playing here,” Brush said. “With an arena you need revenue streams and the greatest revenue stream is the team.”
So now all that’s left to find out is: Who and for how much?
Brush would not talk numbers but when asked, “Do you think you can get what you were looking for a few years ago?” he replied, “Yes.”
Back in 2007, the owners wanted $36 million for the team, arena and surrounding land. For years while hoping to find a buyer, the phone literally didn’t ring. Now? “We’ve been fielding phone calls all week,” added Brush smiling.
Any of those calls local? Brush quickly replied, “Yes. There have been some ongoing discussions with local interests. Not sure where they lead, but they are continuing.”
He would not tell me “who?” but FGCU was once interested. The two sides have talked informally about this in the past. Are they still interested? Probably not, but they should be. The Arena is profitable and likely can pay for itself going forward, if FGCU needed to borrow the money to buy it. Alico Arena and FGCU’s campus have major traffic and parking issues for any event attracting more than 2,000 people. Furthermore, FGCU has little options or room to solve these issues. Germain Arena has no such problems.
Germain Arena is extremely well run with a tremendous corporate sales staff. FGCU has a much smaller, inexperienced staff that tries hard but is playing at a different level.
Then there’s the building comparison.
Alico Arena’s seating capacity is 4,500. Germain Arena seats 8,000 for hoops. Alico Arena has six suites. Germain has 26.
Alico Arena has bad food, only two concession stands and no restaurant. Germain Arena has decent food, numerous stands and a restaurant.
Alico Arena can sell booze but doesn’t. Germain can and does. Dunk City with a beer or glass of wine? CHA-Ching!
FGCU’s athletic department does not control, nor benefit much from, any Alico Arena concession or merchandise sales. Germain Arena controls and benefits 100 percent from all sales.
Alico Arena’s scoreboards do not work properly and need to be replaced (at a cost of roughly a million dollars). Germain Arena does not have this problem.
As for the hockey team? FGCU would have many options, the most desirable being the Lightning or Panthers could bring their AHL affiliate here (which both would love to do). FGCU would then lease the arena to the NHL teams.
If FGCU owns the hockey team and arena, they stop battling with both for the area’s sports/entertainment dollar. They also ensure the arena’s next owner is a friend not a foe.
Oh yeah, location, location, location. Germain Arena is but 2 miles from FGCU’s campus.
There will come a day, SOON, when FGCU outgrows the campus they play on and Arena they play in. At which point they’ll have to build something, somewhere, that looks a lot like Germain Arena.
Or they could buy it now.
David Moulton co-hosts “Miller and Moulton in the Afternoon” weekdays 2 to 6 p.m. on Southwest Florida’s ESPN Radio (101.5 FM Bonita/North Naples, 105.1 FM Naples/Marco Island). His freelance column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.