Outdoor Hockey in Cleveland?

Since NBC broadcast the first NHL Winter Classic in 2008, outdoor hockey has been a draw and created vast interest in the sport. Putting a hockey rink inside a football or baseball stadium has created interest in the sport and has had NHL and minor league teams wondering how to pull it off with success.

While watching the Lake Erie Monsters play the Rochester Americans outdoors on Friday with my dad, we both wondered if the Monsters will take that leap to host a home game outdoors. The game we were watching was being played inside Rochester’s AAA baseball stadium and seemed to have a nice set up for the event.

During various times, the crowd shots showed people who were enthusiastic and excited to be outdoors for the event. Game time temperature was 18 and there were still smiles on the faces of those in the stands as the game went to a shootout.

The Monsters have been able to catch the interest of fans in Cleveland. With aggressive marketing efforts and promotion, a team that critics never thought would last in the city has become one of the top drawings teams in the American Hockey League.

The Monsters front office has always thought outside the box to create interest but can an outdoor game help their marketing efforts?

Outdoor hockey is incredible but not easy to pull off. The costs with putting and maintaining the rink always need to be considered and the sales team for any franchise trying to pull it off often has the hard task of selling and outdoor event. While the game creates interest, selling tickets to sit in 20 degree weather is not an easy task.

The last thing the Monsters would want to do is host their own outdoor game and have it be a flop. No team wants to host it and have empty seats in the stands.

Another question the remains is where the game would be played. Below are some possibilities:

Progressive Field – The home of the Indians has hosted outdoor hockey before. In 2011, Ohio State and Michigan squared off on a rink that was placed in an infield normally inhabited but the likes of Jim Thome, Omar Vizquel and Jason Kipnis. The game was not an exact sellout and there were still empty seats in the stands when the opening puck was dropped. The facility does have luxury boxes and the seating would be closer to the field than other venues

First Energy Stadium – Though unlikely, the stadium is designed for outdoor weather. The home of the Browns was designed for the harsh elements but the Monsters sales team would have the task to trying to sell more tickets. Even if only the lower bowl was used, it would still be a lot of seats to sell and the game would most likely have to occur in late January or February during Cleveland’s harshest winter months.

Byers Field – This high school multi-purpose stadium could be a possibility. The team would not be able to generate luxury box revenues due to lack of these boxes inside the stadium. With a track being around the field and the design, the stands would still be close to the field and provide a decent view of the ice. The stadium holds around 9,000 to 10,000 and could be easier to sell out than Progressive Field or First Energy Stadium.

Canal Park – The home of the Akron Rubber Ducks (formerly the Aeros) could be another possibility. This venue is the smallest out of the three mentioned in this post but could be the most feasible. The Rubber Ducks have an owner who is trying to create more interest in the stadium and the team, the facility has luxury boxes and additional seating could probably be added if needed. The facility is further south than what the Monsters would want but may fit their needs the best. With Lock 3 being right next door, there are multiple opportunities for the Monsters to generate more revenue from the event.

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~ by jeffrsabo on December 15, 2013.

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