The Skipjacks finally got a response to their plea for corporate support yesterday, but it didn't come from the corporate community.
City councilman Joseph J. DiBlasi said he will introduce a resolution at Monday's City Council meeting that would keep the AHL franchise in Baltimore. If passed, the resolution will pledge $150,000 to the Skipjacks, a figure to be matched by "the business community and/or surrounding jurisdictions who also enjoy the sport and its effect on the community."
The figure of $300,000 represents the amount of revenue Skipjacks owner Tom Ebright said he hopes to add with his recent proposal to the corporate community. He would like to get 30 corporations to contribute $10,000 each. In return, each company would receive six season tickets, a sign board at the Arena and a company night at a game of its choice.
DiBlasi said the Skipjacks generate approximately $2 million for Baltimore's economy. If the team leaves, he said it could result in the loss of at least 150 jobs. Their departure also would leave 40 open dates a year at the Arena, he said.
Ebright said he was encouraged by the plan. "It hasn't been approved, but it has been proposed," he said. "I think it's a step in the right direction. Joe's call was the first encouraging call of any substance. I really appreciate it."
Ebright says he has lost $400,000 a year operating the Skipjacks, for a total of nearly $2.5 million in six seasons. He said last week that he might move the team after this season if the corporate community does not help.
DiBlasi, who is chairperson of the Professional and Municipal Sports Committee, said that he talked to Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke about his resolution yesterday and that Schmoke "seemed receptive." DiBlasi said he was hopeful that Schmoke would set up a luncheon with local corporations and urge their support. DiBlasi said that in his resolution there is no guarantee that anyone beyond the city would contribute.
"I don't think we should let the hockey team leave without making a sincere effort," DiBlasi said. "I don't think we should fall asleep at the switch."
Asked if he believed 15 corporations would contribute, DiBlasi said, "We're hopeful. We're trying to focus on the fact this is serious and we don't want to lose the team. We're looking for the business community to step up to the plate, because the city will."
Ebright has said he is being courted by two former AHL cities about relocating. He said he is also talking to local interests about building an arena outside the Beltway.
A decision on where the Skipjacks play next season is expected by April 1.