The state’s only professional sports franchise, the Alaska Aces, will fold after this season. The decision was announced Thursday (Feb. 23).
Terry Parks is a managing member of the Aces. After years of declining revenue, he said the choice to fold was a business decision.
“We bought this team out of bankruptcy almost 15 years ago and certainly turned it around and now we have to suffer the consequences of closing it down because of lack of attendance to the games and we believe it’s all kind of based on the Alaska economy,” Parks said.
The team’s sponsorships are down $600,000 dollars, and ticket sales have dropped more than $250,000.
The past couple seasons, attendance is down, too: about 1,500 fewer people are showing up for any given game — more than a 25 percent drop over the last 3 seasons.
Others expect to take a hit, as well. Chris Schutte directs the office economic and community development for the Municipality of Anchorage. The city owns the Sullivan arena, and Schutte said the Aces account for about 60 percent of the facility’s revenue.
“In 2016, we did about $1.5 million of revenue from Aces-related activities,” Schutte said. “So that’s renting the building, box office ticket sales, food and beverage sales, parking, things like that.”
Though the departure leaves a huge gap, Schutte said SMG — the company that operates the Sullivan Arena for the Municipality — is already working to fill in space left by the Aces.
“It’s weird, there’s a silver lining almost in the loss of the Aces in that the building itself becomes more available,” Schutte said. “And that gives SMG broader latitude in booking the facility for other types of events…concerts, comedy shows, things like that.”
Aside from the drop in revenue, Schutte said the largest loss is to Anchorage’s hockey community, and the generations of kids who have long been inspired by the Aces.
That’s a sentiment Terry Parks agrees with.
“The hockey community is certainly sad to see the Aces go, we’re sad to see it go, we’ve been involved with it going on 22-23 years as a sponsor before we purchased it,” Parks said. “So we all have a lot of energy and effort into it, but you can’t continue to run a business that’s losing a significant amount of money.”
The team will play out the remainder of the season, wrapping up in early April.
All of the players will become free agents.