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Falcons president: ‘We’re committed to Springfield’

Date: 12/23/2014

SPRINGFIELD – Charlie Pompea, owner of the Springfield Falcons, once said he became a successful businessman because he jettisoned the losers and invested in the winners.

After an Internet report sent local hockey fans into a frenzy over rumors the Springfield Falcons could be relocated, Sarah Pompea, team president, said they still believe hockey could be a financial winner in Western Massachusetts. 

“We have been making internal changes that I believe will be beneficial to us moving forward and we are committed to keeping the team in the city of Springfield as long as the city is committed to having us,” she told Reminder Publications.

The report in question, which has since been retracted by Hartford Wolf Pack fan blog, cited “three knowledgeable,” but unnamed, “AHL sources,” that outlined a massive re-tooling of the league, that included alleged plans for the Columbus Blue Jackets, the Falcons’ NHL affiliate, to buy the team and move it to Cleveland.

Former Falcons President and General Manager and current Director of Hockey Operations Bruce Landon immediately called the report “absolutely not true,” and Pompea took it a step further, stressing the leadership group and ownership have had no discussions with anyone – whether it be Columbus or any other organization – regarding the sale of the team.

The Falcons have an affiliation agreement with Columbus and a lease with the MassMutual Center that both run through the 2015-16 season. Each agreement also includes two one-year options.

The MassMutual Center is owned by the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority (MCCA) and managed by Global Spectrum, while MGM Springfield outlined taking over management of the MassMutual Center in its original proposal.

“The MassMutual Center has always been an integral part of the MGM Springfield project. MGM, a world leader in group sales and operations, has offered its expertise, including management services, and relationships to the MassMutual Center if the Commonwealth is interested,” Carole Brennan, MGM Springfield spokesman, said.

When asked about the future of the Falcons’ relationship with the MassMutual Center and potential future lease agreements, Pompea said she did not know what the future of the arena’s management would be.

“You would have to ask them about that,” she said. “We have enjoyed a great relationship with Global Spectrum and the MCCA.”

Attempts to reach the MCCA and Global Spectrum were not returned as of press time.

Pompea did say the team continues to monitor attendance, which she said is down approximately 25 percent from a year ago. Springfield ranks second to last in the league with an average attendance of 2,723 fans through the gate during its 12 home games thus far. Last season, the Falcons drew an average of 3,787 in its 38-game home schedule. In the past, Landon had told Reminder Publications the team would have to average approximately 4,000 fans per game to be financially viable.

“Obviously the league-wide trend is that attendance is always down in the early months,” she said. “We are hopeful that we will be able to draw more non-traditional hockey fans in the second half of the season through some of our upcoming promotions.”

Falcons single-game ticket prices remain among the highest in the area, starting at $21 for adults and $14 for students and children 17 and under. By contrast, the Worcester Sharks also start at $21, with $12 tickets for children ages 2 to 12, seniors and military personnel. Albany Devils tickets start at $17 for adults and $15 for children and seniors. The Hartford Wolf Pack charges $15 for its cheapest adult ticket and $12 for children under 14, and also offers discounts for seniors and military personnel.

Springfield recently hosted buy one, get one ticket sales on Black Friday and Cyber Monday and Pompea said more adjustments to ticketing will be made for the 2015-16 season.

“We are currently developing the ticket packages and box office prices for next season and I think fans will be happy with the changes,” she said.