The Alaska Aces are dropping out of the ECHL effective for the 2017-2018 season, as Alaska’s poor economy and declining attendance is causing ownership to call it quits.
“This is an incredibly difficult decision, which came after months of careful consideration,” Aces Managing Partner Terry Parks said. “We worked through every possible solution that might have avoided this outcome but it became painfully obvious to us that, in this economy, a professional hockey team is not sustainable in Alaska.”
The team competed for 14 years in the ECHL, but ownership found that it could not move forward with a disinterested corporate base as well as the challenges of doing business in Alaska. From ADN.com:
Parks said the Aces lost more than $1 million in 2016 and are projecting losses at the same pace this year. Those losses are split among five owners from the original group that in 2002 bought the franchise — formerly the Anchorage Aces — out of bankruptcy for about $1 million and quickly turned it into a perennial power on the ice and at the box office.
Co-owner Jerry Mackie said folding the club is excruciating, but absorbing such losses is no longer sustainable for owners who have never made money from the franchise.
“I think it’s an understatement to say this hurts,” Mackie said. “It’s like losing a family member because you can’t get them back. We tried every possible way to save this team and this organization for the community, despite significant financial loss.
“At some point in time, you realize there’s nothing you can do.”
The University of Alaska hockey team will continue to play at Sullivan Arena, but the loss of the Aces means there are holes in the schedule for arena manager SMG to fill, per ADN.com:
If there’s a silver lining in the Aces’ exit, Schutte and Wooden said, it’s that Sullivan Arena will be more available for rent. In the past, Schutte said, the arena has had some trouble booking national touring artists because show dates often fell on Aces weekends.
Schutte also said Sullivan Arena has been working to take up some of the business left by the January collapse of the inflatable Dome recreation center in South Anchorage.
Even so, Schutte said, the Aces were the arena’s biggest tenant. In 2016, the hockey team was responsible for about $1.5 million in facility rent, more than half the total revenue of Sullivan Arena, Schutte said. Wooden also said the team’s exit is also expected to affect advertising.