Imagine if the Washington Capitals, after earning the Presidents’ Trophy, were forced to play the first round of the post-season at their practice facility, the Kettler Capitals Iceplex, because the Verizon Center had prior engagements. That’s almost exactly the situation facing the Peoria Rivermen, the SPHL affiliate of the Chicago Blackhawks and the minor league’s top team.
Peoria Journal Star’s Dave Eminian reported Monday that the Rivermen, who have clinched the top seed in the minor league before the season is even through, won’t be welcoming hometown fans to the Peoria Civic Center come the opening night of the post-season. Matter of fact, it’s possible none of Peoria’s first- or second-round games, should they advance that far, will be played in their home building. The Civic Center, also known as Carver Arena, has already been booked for a monster truck rally and religious event.
“We have been left with nowhere else to go,” Rivermen co-owner Bart Rogers told Eminian. “We either have to play the games at our opponent’s arena, or play at our practice site…We’re blocked out of (the Civic Center). Gone. Can’t play there.”
Eminian reported that because the Rivermen have been kicked off their home ice for those 10 days, they’ll instead take their first-round games to the Owens Center, home of the NA3HL Peoria Mustangs. That building sits about 10 minutes away from the Civic Center, and while it may seem like a simple and obvious solution, there could be some major issues. Namely, getting their fans into the building.
According to Eminian, the Rivermen have 1,000-plus season ticket holders this season. In addition, the team’s average attendance this season has been 3,952, according to the SPHL, and in two playoff games in 2014-15 the Rivermen averaged nearly 3,000 fans. The capacity of the Owens Center? Roughly 950, according to Eminian. Even if they do get the fans in the building, it’s unclear if the Rivermen will be able to charge the same rate for tickets or what will be offered to fans.
This isn’t even an entirely new issue, Eminian added, saying that if the Rivermen were to have made the final last season, their home games in the best-of-three President’s Cup final would have had to been played at an alternate venue because the Civic Center was booked.
“It’s very disappointing,” Rogers told Eminian. “Your team works hard and has an incredible season and earns home-ice, and then we end up playing at our practice facility. It’s a blow to the team, to the fan base and advertisers and supporters in central Illinois. Our lease expires after next season. And I can tell you right now, this is going to be an issue when we sit down to discuss any extension.”