Pro hockey is nothing new in Upstate New York, but an event in February at the New York State Fairgrounds will bring a new form of hockey to the Central New York region. Outdoor hockey. Our Bill Carey has the story.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- It took months to finally hammer out a deal, but finally the man in charge of Syracuse's pro hockey team was ready to make the announcement.
"The Syracuse Crunch will host the first ever American Hockey League outdoor game, against the Binghamton Senators," said Syracuse Crunch CEO Howard Dolgon.
The idea is to try to capture some of the enthusiasm generated by the NHL with its outdoor classics. The plan is to convert the fairgrounds' grandstand into a hockey arena, hosting 20,000 fans. A sell out, the teams say, is within reach.
"Sold a lot of tickets already. Started Friday night and Saturday night and there were lines at the table," said Binghamton Senators Executive Vice President Tom Mitchell.
The effort attracted the early support of Senator Charles Schumer, who says there is a clear economic benefit from the event.
"The outdoor hockey game is going to bring 2,800 overnight guests to Syracuse and an estimated $1 million in tourism revenue. It's estimated that these visitors will not just stay for one night, but for several, injecting cash into restaurants, hotels and other local businesses," Schumer said.
The state fair is hoping a big crowd for hockey might encourage even more uses for the grounds during the winter months.
"The economy is being challenged right now, not only in the state of New York, but across the country. And events like this do inject substantial dollars into the regional and local economy," said New York State fair Director Dan O'Hara.
Dolgon expects few problems filling the seats here the state fairgrounds on February 20th. Few problems in making this game a success.
Dolgon's long battle to stage the game was marked by run-ins with some Onondaga County legislators who blocked an effort to stage the game at Alliance Bank Stadium in Syracuse. They argued the event would cost too much and have too little an impact.
"I think the people that resisted are probably going to be a little regretful that they didn't believe in this concept. But we've got a pretty big bandwagon. They can jump on any time," Dolgon said.
The game could become an annual event.