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Published: Saturday, 4/30/2005

Storm to ask for a second extension

BY DAN SAEVIG
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

Buoyed by the success of a "Save the Storm" drive, team majority owner Tim Gladieux said yesterday he will ask for a second extension from the ECHL's board of governors on Toledo's request to suspend operations for 2005-06.

Gladieux said he will announce during a Monday conference call that more than 1,000 season tickets have been sold for next season. He added that the additional time will allow the campaign - which has a goal of 1,600 - to proceed while discussions continue with parties to own or operate the franchise, including the not-for-profit Toledo Mud Hens.

"I think we'll get the time needed to sell," Gladieux said. "I think we're going to hit that goal and we'll play next year."

The Storm announced on March 30 that it was seeking to sit out 2005-06 because of financial losses resulting from a shrinking season-ticket base of 750, half of what management says is needed to break even in the 58-year-old Sports Arena, which also is owned by Gladieux.

On April 12, the governors tabled Toledo's suspension request until May 2 to give the club time to pursue options.

Storm vice president and general manager Mike Miller said yesterday that more than 400 new season tickets have been sold and that renewals are approaching 75 percent. The deadline for exisiting season-ticket holders to hold their same seats for 2005-06 is Monday.

"Within another week or 10 days - if sales continue at their current pace - we'll be where the losses are mitigated to the point where we will continue to operate," Gladieux said.

ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna is encouraged by the reaction of fans and the business community, but would not express an opinion as to whether Gladieux's request would be granted.

"The whole ticket campaign is a referendum for the long-term viability of hockey and possibly a new arena," Mc-Kenna said.

A potential variable is the United Hockey League, a Double-A caliber operation which has teams in Michigan and Indiana.

"The league is aware that the UHL is waiting on the doorstep if we don't play," Gladieux said.

Discussions have been held that could see Kansas City's UHL franchise relocate to Toledo should Gladieux not operate. Kansas City - which announced April 15 that it was suspending operations - and the UHL's Fort Wayne team have the same owners.

"I'm sure there are probably 10 [UHL] teams that would like to be in there," McKenna said.

"No one has ever disputed that Toledo is a good hockey market."

Contact Dan Saevig at:

dsaevig@theblade.com.



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