Chances of "Winter Classic" in Cedar Rapids not good ... at least right now

Jeff Johnson
Published: January 2 2014 | 5:29 pm - Updated: 29 March 2014 | 1:34 am in
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CEDAR RAPIDS - The chances of Cedar Rapids hosting a USHL-style "Winter Classic" anytime soon are about the same as the temperature has been lately.áThat'sázero to below zero.

"We have talked about it amongst ourselves," Cedar Rapids RoughRiders CEO Jeff Jauch said Thursday. "And then the cost comes up, and it's like 'Never mind.'"

The National Hockey League's 2014 Winter Classic went off beautifully Wednesday, as over 100,000 fans packed Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, Mich., on a cold and snowy day to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs top the Detroit Red Wings in a shootout. It was a grand celebration of the sport.

The NHL began playing New Year's Day games outside in 2008, and the event has only seemed to get larger and larger. College hockey teams have copied the formula and begun playing outdoors at places like Fenway Park and Soldier Field.

Nebraska-Omaha and North Dakota concluded a double-header called the "Mutual of Omaha Battles On Ice" last February at Omaha's TD Ameritrade Park (home of the College World Series). The Omaha Lancers and Lincoln Stars also played what was the league's first and only outdoor game thusáfar.

"Wouldn't it be cool here?" Jauch said. "We would absolutely love to do something like that. If it was promoted right, I think you would get a lot of interest in it. The timing would have to be right. That's the first thing. Then the second thing, of course, is the cost. Kingston Stadium would probably be a good place to do it. Or it could be done at (Memorial Stadium)."

Jauch said some sort of ice-making/maintaining system would have to be installed wherever the outdoor game theoretically would be played, and that's the big cost. The other question, he said, would be selling enough tickets to make it a financially viable endeavor.

They sold 13,560 last year in Omaha, for instance. Former longtime Waterloo Black Hawks' President Doug Miller said there is more to consider than just making ice and selling tickets.

He mentioned every team has a lease to play a certain number of home games each season, and by eliminating one, that game would have to be "bought out." He didn't know how advertisers and sponsors would react to essentially having one less home game.

Then there is the cost of renting the outdoor venue and staffing it for the game. Corporate sponsorship would be an absolute must.

Jauch said he didn't have a firm idea on how much money would need to be raised to conduct an outdoor game, but it's believed to be six figures. Perhaps something like an "Iowa Outdoor Classic" involving the RoughRiders, Waterloo Black Hawks, Dubuque Fighting Saints and Des Moines Buccaneers would be the best route to go.

Or perhaps something that involves the American Hockey League's Iowa Wild in Des Moines could be a possibility.

"Outdoor hockey has been looked at in several locations," Miller said.á "Is it doable?á Sure.á Will anybody take the risk that all the tumblers will fall and it will go off with a complete sellout and enough sponsors to make it make sense? ... Iádon't know. But I would love to see it happen."

Jauch agreed.

"I love the idea," he said. "I think it would beáa fun, fun thing. But if the costs are too much, you can't make it happen. We aren't in the business of just writing checks."

 

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