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Youngstown, Ohio Convocation Center

Posted by LOTGK on October 15, 2007

Originally reported 11/29/2004

As the movie “Field Of Dreams” stated, If you build it, they will come.

That seems to be the credo of our Youngstown, Ohio Convocation committee.

And they are banking on it with our hard earned tax dollars as the Youngstown Convocation Center has been announced and begun construction on an abandoned site between the Market Street and South Avenue bridges. The center is promoting a Central hockey league team, future Arena football league team, Ice shows, concerts, trade shows, and consumer shows. The city is touting tens of thousands of people will be visiting the center weekly breathing much needed life into the city of Youngstown.

The cost of this Convocation center is $41 million dollars with the city footing $11 million with $30 million coming from a Federal Grant negotiated with former Congressman Jim Traficant. Jimmy is currently in jail serving an 8-year sentence for bribery.

Global Entertainment, a company located outside of Youngstown, Ohio, and outside of the state of Ohio is the controlling entity of the Convocation center. Global is located in Phoenix, Arizona. Contracts for all work on the center are approved by Global for the near 100,000 square foot center.

Sounds grand so far doesn’t it? Well, the Grassy Knoll Institute has several questions.

Query #1. The center has a 5500-seat capacity that, for Youngstown, is pretty impressive. But, there are only 400-450 parking spots allotted for the center. If you sell out the center, and you have say, 450 parking spots, it means every car will have 12 passengers.

What about mass transit, subways, taxi’s, buses? Youngstown doesn’t have a subway or rail system. Hell, even Amtrak doesn’t stop here anymore. And on last count, we have three taxis in Youngstown. Take the bus? Hardly. The bus system would take patrons literally hours to get home for the routes are spread out to far. And, who wants to walk home from the top of their street after hours in the dark in Youngstown? I don’t think the bus will offer house-to-house delivery and pickup.

This means that outside arena parking lots will be utilized and the fans either walk to the center or get bussed there.

Query #2. The first tenant will be the steel Hounds, a Central league hockey team. The Central league is based in Texas and has teams also in Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and now Youngstown, Ohio. Anyone else see anything wrong with this alignment? We’re the only team East of the Mississippi. The expense to play in these other states is very expensive.

So high in fact, that for the Youngstown central hockey team Steel Hounds to just break even on expenses, they must have an average of 4500 paying customers for each and every game. That fan base sum is ludicrous. To put these figures in perspective, lets look at the Cleveland Barons, another minor league hockey team that compares to the Central league teams. Cleveland has over 3 million people in its metro area compared to about 700,000 for the metro Youngstown area. The Cleveland Barons average 1000 paying fans per game. That is 3500 less per game for the Youngstown hockey team to just break even. With 2.3 million less fan base, it does not bode well for the new hockey team.

(The Steel Hounds have not averaged 4500 paying customers in their first season. Numbers are from 1200 to 3000 depending on what report but nonetheless, the team and center are losing money on this venture.)

To add fuel to the fire. The Youngstown area already has a hockey team. The Youngstown Phantoms, that play in Boardman, a suburb of Youngstown at the Iceberg on McClurg, AKA The Ice Zone. The Phantoms are in the NAHL, a league that has sent players to the NHL and major colleges. The average attendance at the games is approximately 400 fans. The owner of the Phantoms is Bruce Zoldan, a successful local businessman who also owns B.J. Alan Company and Phantom Fireworks, a multimillion-dollar retail chain of fireworks stores across the United States. Zoldan stated that his hockey team is not a profitable entity yet he continues with the league to add quality of life to the area.

Query #3. What else? So, we now have 24 dates set, when the new hockey team will play. What are we to do with the remaining calendar? An arena football franchise has been mentioned but as of yet, no deal is in the works. Basketball maybe? The local college, only minutes from the center, has an impressive arena and does not need the center to play their games. The area high schools do not have the student attendance to warrant a 5500-seat center. Their local high school gyms can handle the local crowd.

Trade shows are shaky at best. I have been to my share of trade shows, and the location needs support from the local hotels, nightlife, and restaurants. It is much easier to be enticed to attend a trade show in New York City, Las Vegas, Miami, Chicago, and Los Angeles than it would be for Youngstown, Ohio. As I sit here typing, there are but a few restaurants within a several mile radius of the center that is open after dark.

Not to mention that Youngstown does not have a hotel. Several will need to be built, and with all our money in the Convocation center, I fear there will be no more funding for hotel development. Local suburbs have very nice hotels, but as I mentioned earlier, there is no rail service, minimal taxi service, and the bus system is abysmal. There must be a way to get the conventioneers to and from the hotels and convocation center.

Query #4. The commitment. Global has a bond for $300,000.00 to secure that the Central hockey team to be named later will play at the convocation center. This scares me the most. Doing simple math, 4500 fans at say $12.00 per ticket for 24 home games is 108,000 fans for the season and just under $1.3 million in revenue. Being that Global controls the contracts for the center, they stand to make several million dollars in profit before the doors open. If the hockey team goes belly up, Global only pays $300 grand to get out from under their responsibility to the city. Global will make a tidy profit. This will leave the city high and dry with a vacant center. We already have plenty of vacant buildings.

Query #5. If memory serves me correctly, at the end of the movie, “Field Of Dreams”, the baseball field was built, “They” came, and the movie ended with the stars walking into the cornfield never to be seen or heard from again.

Global may do the very same thing. Lets hope not.

Addendum:
On the upside, Disney on Ice was booked for several shows and was sold out as well several music concerts.
The jury, and the fate of our city still hangs in the balance.

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