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Fallout of AHL/ECHL realignment: Manchester

Manchester MonarchsWe have one potential victim of last week’s AHL/ECHL realignment: the Manchester Monarchs, a successful AHL team moving down to the ECHL.

The Monarchs have been a traditionally strong draw to Verizon Center, attracting 5,608 fans a game last season and averaging 5,544 fans a game this season. So losing the Monarchs to Ontario and receiving an ECHL team in return is bad news for local fans. And while there are some pluses — the ECHL Monarchs will drop ticket prices by some 15 percent and increase the number of promotions — the hardcore hockey fans are lamenting the drop in the level of play, and city officials worry about a potential loss of revenue. From the New Hampshire Union-Leader:

The city is paying nearly $5 million a year through around 2030 to fund the arena through rooms-and-meal tax revenues. And SMG, which manages the arena, gave a guarantee to the city that taxpayers wouldn’t be on the hook for any arena operating deficits while an AHL team operated here.

“The guarantee is staying in place,” Tim Bechert, the arena’s senior general manager, said in an interview.

The management agreement between SMG and the city calls for SMG to maintain its “operating deficit guarantee” if SMG or the city “succeeds in attracting a comparable replacement prime tenant(s)” should the AHL team leave.

The Los Angeles Kings, owner of Monarchs past and present, extended the Verizon Center lease by five years. And there’s always the possibility that a new AHL team move to Manchester: it’s clearly an AHL market, and if the 2015-2016 attendance and revenues don’t measure up, look for Verizon Center and SMG officials to push the Kings to let them bring in an AHL owner.

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