Wild lockout blocks flow of hockey dollars

  • Article by: ROCHELLE OLSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 18, 2012 - 8:07 AM

St. Paul took a hit to the tune of $60 million during the last NHL lockout -- not to mention the buzz downtown on game days.

With the Minnesota Wild's season frozen by a lockout, downtown St. Paul is bracing for less heat on the streets and less cash coming in.

For the 40-plus home games a season, some 18,000 fans electrify the corridors radiating from Xcel Energy Center. Pregame warmups make parking scarce near establishments from the St. Paul Grill on Rice Park to Alary's Bar on East Seventh Street and the Bulldog in Lowertown.

The National Hockey League lockout that began on Saturday, however, threatens to keep Wild fans home, depopulate restaurants and cost the city revenue and swagger.

Matt Kramer, president of the St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce, said the streets start to buzz about 4 p.m. on game days as fans begin to arrive in their red-and-green regalia. "The feel of the town changes when we don't have hockey," he said. "The NHL brings a cachet."

The players' union and the league are at odds over core issues in their collective bargaining agreement, including an immediate pay cut for players. Training camp was to open next week, with games beginning Oct. 11. The schedule is in jeopardy with further negotiations not scheduled until Wednesday.

In 2004-05, the NHL shuttered the entire season. No one knows the duration of this stoppage, but City Hall is wary. According to the city, revenue from a half-cent citywide sales tax was down in the lost season. The following year, sales-tax revenue went up by $300,000, to $8.7 million. City leaders estimated the economic hit to St. Paul that season at $60 million.

"The Wild are a major economic engine for the city," Mayor Chris Coleman's spokesman, Joe Campbell, said. "Another lost season would be a huge blow to businesses and across the city. The mayor obviously remains concerned and is watching intently as these negotiations continue and really urges the players and the owners to reach a solution as quickly as possible."

Xcel Energy Center employs 500-plus ushers, security personnel, concierges, concession workers and others who won't be paid. Businesses that don't directly benefit from hockey, such as clothiers and antique stores, will miss having thousands of extra people in the area during games.

Under a lockout, the Wild can't market players or ask them to appear at promotional events. Fox Sports North won't air "Becoming Wild," the weekly team documentary.

A sampling of business owners projected varying amounts of pain but a consensus in favor of a quick resolution.

Fred Yarusso, owner of Yarusso Bros. on Payne Avenue, drives the restaurant's shuttle to the Xcel on game nights. Anywhere from 10 to 40 fans come on game nights, loading onto the van after twirling spaghetti noodles off of plates with the house's robust red sauce and meatballs.

"It's not going to help out St. Paul any," he said of the stoppage. The Wild "helps the whole town. Downtown buzzes. It helps our city."

Founded in 1933, Yarusso's won't get nicked badly from the Wild. "That wouldn't be a good business model to rely on one other business," Yarusso said.

Pat Boemer owns Patrick McGovern's Pub on West Seventh, which is a five-minute stroll to the Xcel. Known for succulent roast turkey, Boemer said his restaurant goes through 20 birds a day regardless of whether the Wild plays. "I was here 20 years prior to the Xcel even opening," he said. "With that being said, I'd love to have them play."

Boemer said the food at his restaurant is a regional draw -- especially with the addition of an outdoor patio in 2005. About 12 percent of his business comes from Wild game nights. "When they play, our business is phenomenal," he said. "If they don't play, our business is phenomenal too."

'My bills are still the same'

But just across West Seventh at Tom Reid's Hockey City Pub, namesake owner Reid said his revenue is "greatly diminished" when the team isn't playing. He draws a heavy pre- and post-game crowd, staffing roughly 30 extra employees on game nights. Wild fans bring in 35 to 60 percent of his business, Reid said. On game days, he put the number at 85 percent.

"Hopefully, we can get this corrected as quickly as possible. My bills are still the same," Reid said. "We limp along through the summer months waiting for the new season. Now we don't know how long we have to continue to limp."

The bills will still come in for others as well -- including the Wild and the city, which owes $32 million on the 1998 state loan to help build the Xcel.

The Wild makes $8 million in lease payments to the city annually. Those payments cover both the loan payment to the state and 90 percent of the annual debt service on bonds the city issued to build the arena, city Finance Director Todd Hurley said.

"There is no provision in the loan that accounts for a work stoppage, so all payments must be made regardless of whether the Wild plays," Hurley said.

When the team doesn't play, Wild chief financial officer Jeff Pellegrom said, "It creates quite a burden for us. ... It's always better for us when they're on the ice."

Rochelle Olson • 651-925-5035 Twitter: @rochelleolson

  • related content

  • Players hit the ice to skate and wait

    Tuesday September 18, 2012

    Locked-out Wild members began their new routine.

  • Blount: Fehr gives union edge, so lockout could be lengthy

    Tuesday September 18, 2012

    The NHLPA finally has an experienced, brilliant and fearless negotiator in Donald Fehr, one who understands both his constituents and his adversary. That's good news for the players.

  • Pat Boemer, owner of Patrick McGovern’s Pub, hustled meals at lunchtime. McGovern’s, a short stroll down the street from Xcel Energy Center, would just as soon not lose the business generated by the Wild.

  • Tom Reid’s Hockey City Pub stands to lose significant business if the NHL lockout goes on, while his bills keep coming.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

San Francisco - M. Bumgarner 7:07 PM
Pittsburgh - E. Volquez
Minnesota 10/2/14 7:25 PM
Green Bay
Buffalo 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Detroit
Chicago 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Cleveland 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
St. Louis 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Philadelphia
Atlanta 10/5/14 12:00 PM
NY Giants
Tampa Bay 10/5/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Houston 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Dallas
Baltimore 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Indianapolis
Pittsburgh 10/5/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Arizona 10/5/14 3:05 PM
Denver
Kansas City 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Francisco
NY Jets 10/5/14 3:25 PM
San Diego
Cincinnati 10/5/14 7:30 PM
New England
Seattle 10/6/14 7:30 PM
Washington
Washington 6:00 PM
Buffalo
Carolina 6:00 PM
Columbus
Pittsburgh 6:30 PM
Detroit
Montreal 7:30 PM
Chicago
Arizona 8:00 PM
Edmonton
Fla Atlantic 10/2/14 6:00 PM
FIU
UCF 10/2/14 6:00 PM
Houston
Arizona 10/2/14 9:30 PM
(2) Oregon
Louisville 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Syracuse
San Diego St 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Fresno State
Utah State 10/3/14 9:15 PM
(18) BYU
(6) Texas A&M 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(12) Miss State
Ball State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Army
Iowa State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(21) Oklahoma State
Marshall 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Old Dominion
Southern Miss 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Middle Tennessee
(20) Ohio State 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Maryland
Purdue 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Florida 10/4/14 11:00 AM
Tennessee
SMU 10/4/14 11:00 AM
(22) East Carolina
Virginia Tech 10/4/14 11:30 AM
North Carolina
Eastern Mich 10/4/14 1:00 PM
Akron
North Texas 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Indiana
Massachusetts 10/4/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Tulsa 10/4/14 2:00 PM
Colorado State
New Mexico 10/4/14 2:30 PM
TX-San Antonio
(3) Alabama 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(11) Ole Miss
(14) Stanford 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(9) Notre Dame
(17) Wisconsin 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Northwestern
Navy 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Air Force
(7) Baylor 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Texas
(4) Oklahoma 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(25) TCU
Wake Forest 10/4/14 2:30 PM
(1) Florida State
NC State 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Clemson
Buffalo 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Bowling Green
Ohio U 10/4/14 2:30 PM
Central Mich
Oregon State 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Colorado
Vanderbilt 10/4/14 3:00 PM
(13) Georgia
Kansas 10/4/14 3:00 PM
West Virginia
Kent State 10/4/14 4:00 PM
Northern Ill
South Alabama 10/4/14 5:00 PM
Appalachian St
Texas-El Paso 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
(15) LSU 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(5) Auburn
UAB 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Ky
Texas Tech 10/4/14 6:00 PM
(23) Kansas State
Michigan 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rutgers
Hawaii 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Rice
Toledo 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Western Mich
ULM 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Arkansas State
Georgia State 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Louisiana
Idaho 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Texas State
Memphis 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Cincinnati
Arizona State 10/4/14 6:30 PM
(16) USC
So Carolina 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Kentucky
Pittsburgh 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Virginia
Miami-Florida 10/4/14 6:30 PM
Georgia Tech
(19) Nebraska 10/4/14 7:00 PM
(10) Michigan State
UNLV 10/4/14 7:00 PM
San Jose St
Ga Southern 10/4/14 7:00 PM
New Mexico St
California 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Washington St
Utah 10/4/14 9:30 PM
(8) UCLA
Boise State 10/4/14 9:30 PM
Nevada
Winnipeg 10/3/14 6:00 PM
Ottawa
Calgary 10/3/14 9:00 PM
Saskatchewan
Edmonton 10/4/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/4/14 6:00 PM
Hamilton
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close