As reported in March, the ice maintenance system at James Brown Arena in Augusta broke down and forced the Augusta RiverHawks minor league hockey team to relocate their games to another Augusta-based hockey rink for the remainder of their season. There was also a good chance the repairs would be so costly that the arena would choose not to implement the repair and force the RiverHawks to leave town or cease operations all together.
Yesterday it was announced that the RiverHawks would follow the latter. A statement from owner Bob Kerzner:
The Augusta RiverHawks organization regrets to announce that we will not be playing in Augusta next season.
After waiting over two and a half months, the League deadline to commit to play next year is at hand and a decision needed to be made. We, as an organization, have not received any positive information concerning the replacement of the ice system at the James Brown Arena. A May 12th deadline was communicated to the building manager back at the end of March or the beginning of April. We also have not received any information concerning monetary compensation for the loss of the Arena for the eight games that were to be played in the James Brown Arena in March of this year.
We are taking a leave from League play with the approval from the League’s governors for one season. Hopefully, something can be done in the greater CSRA to bring hockey back the following year. We will retain our franchise.
To recap the situation, the system of pumps, tanks, and pipes below the ice at James Brown Arena has allegedly outlived its stated useful life and in the middle of the season the system broke down (pipes in the ice broke, and apparently more breakage elsewhere in the system). The team was forced to play the remainder of their home games in another arena with significantly lower fan capacity, so attendance was limited to season ticket holders and sponsors. The cost of the repair/replacement system will be north of $1M and since the team was leasing the space at James Brown Arena the costs don’t all fall back on the team itself.
A last ditch attempt to see how the costs could be covered:
Kerzner said he was told insurance would not cover the cost of the system, meaning another process will be needed to determine whether it will be fixed.
It’s just a bad situation overall, but it also goes to show you how poor quality can be the nail in the coffin for any organization, whether it’s sports or traditional business.
Proper maintenance of the ice system (and by “proper” maintenance I mean fixing all the problems right when they occur, applying preventative maintenance to the system as well as scheduled maintenance, use of the Total Productive Maintenance philosophies) could have potentially extended the life of the system. Proper problem identification, immediate and correct repair to problems, and adequate attention to ways to improve the system is the difference between a car being in service for 20-30 years and having to replace a car every 10 years or so.
By not applying proper maintenance (which might run, I don’t know, $50-75K per year?) the situation became so much more costly (replacement north of $1M), but it also meant loss of ticket sales (move to lower-capacity arena, and the attendees are those who already had tickets purchased) and a team no longer using your arena.
I don’t see the RiverHawks ever coming back to Augusta, even after the upcoming season. If a new ice system is implemented at JBA, it doesn’t look like it will happen anytime soon. Penny wise, dollar foolish.