Incentives, pledge to keep or upgrade league part of four-year Komets lease

A new four-year lease will keep the Komets at the Memorial Coliseum for a while, and prevents them from moving to a lower league. ( file photo)
Randy Brown

The Komets will be playing at the Memorial Coliseum through at least October 2021 — and will have to provide the same level of hockey or better during that period.

Culminating negotiations that began in April, the Coliseum Board of Trustees Monday approved a four-year lease under which the county-owned facility to pay the hockey club up to $40,000 in additional annual attendance-based incentives in addition to $25,000 in similar annual incentives previously approved by the County Commissioners. The Komets will pay the Coliseum rent of $1 per season, with the Coliseum and the Commissioners adding the incentives for tickets sold for attendance between 180,000 and 220,500 fans per season.

In addition, the Komets agreed either to remain in the double-AA ECHL or move to the higher-level American Hockey League. The team is prohibited from dropping to a lower league, such as the single-A Southern Professional Hockey League. Former ECHL city Evansville recently did that, and attendance dropped significantly, Coliseum General Manager Randy Brown said.

“Hockey (at the Coliseum) is secure for years to come,” he added.

Despite the additional payments, Board Chairman Mac Parker said increased attendance could allow the Coliseum to recover part of all of its support through additional parking and concessions revenues. The new lease, he said, will help the Komets cope with increased costs while keeping ticket prices affordable.

So far this season, Komet attendance is up about 1,000 over this time last year.

The board on Monday also signed a two-year lease under which IPFW will play at least 10 basketball games at the Coliseum per season.

Meanwhile, Brown said the Coliseum will continue to be upgraded in 2018 with the addition of a new scoreboard and electronic “ribbon boards” that circle the arena. Even though he current equipment is less than 10 years old, Brown said it is difficult to maintain because the manufacturer is no longer in business. The new scoreboard will be slightly larger, and the current scoreboard’s panels will be removed and installed in the corners of the arena to provide up-to-date statistical information. Cost is expected to be about $1.5 million, Brown said.

Through October, total Coliseum attendance was about 965,000 Brown added, up about 7.8 percent from last year.