Swarm struggling with finances

  • Updated: October 11, 2013 - 12:33 AM

Minnesota’s Jeff Gilbert lunged for the ball as Edmonton’s Zack Greer (88) passed off during a game last year.

Photo: File photo by Courtney Perry • Special to the Star Tribune,

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Earlier this year the Minnesota Swarm, the state’s professional lacrosse team, was dealt a financial blow when Treasure Island Resort and Casino withdrew as the team’s main corporate sponsor.

So it was no real surprise when the Swarm, which is celebrating its 10th season, sent an eye-opening e-mail to fans this week saying that without more season-ticket holder support the team’s long-term financial success was dim.

“Our success on the field and our assistance with the growth of lacrosse in Minnesota has come at the price of tremendous financial losses that are not sustainable over another five years of ownership,” the team said in its e-mail.

While team president Andy Arlotta said Thursday the team would play beyond its coming season at St. Paul’s Xcel Energy Center, he said the Swarm was scrambling to fill the loss of Treasure Island and had been meeting with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux. The team president said he has had “big talks” with the Mdewakanton Sioux’ tribal chair.

“They’re very interested in filling the role there,” said Arlotta.

Treasure Island spokeswoman Cindy Taube said the resort and casino withdrew its corporate support because of a “business, economic decision,” and indicated the decision was based in part on poor fan support for the Swarm. The Swarm had played its games, under a naming rights agreement, on the Treasure Island Field at Xcel Energy Center.

The resort and casino has ongoing corporate relationships with the Wild, Twins, Timberwolves, Lynx and the University of Minnesota.

“The number of people that would go to a Timberwolves game vs. a Swarm game, or an average baseball game vs. a Swarm game — it’s pretty quick to figure those numbers out,” Taube said.

The team said that successful teams in the nine-team National Lacrosse League have a base of at least 6,000 season tickets, and that some have as many 10,000 season tickets. The team said the Swarm had roughly 2,500 season-ticket holders this year — and had set a goal of increasing that figure to 4,000 in 2014.

“This is unlikely to eliminate our losses, but it will show significant support and progress that will give us optimism for the future,” the team said in its e-mail.

Arlotta, whose family has owned the Swarm since buying it from the Minnesota Wild’s owners in 2008, said the team had been able to “significantly reduce our expenses.” He said the team is moving forward — its season opens Dec. 28 — knowing there will likely be continued operating losses, but was anticipating they will be “not where they’re at today.”

MIKE KASZUBA

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