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New turf field to help improve Sullivan Arena’s finances

By Dave Leval Photojournalist: Dave Leval - 9:32 PM July 25, 2017
Anchorage –

Ice is the primary surface at Sullivan Arena. That’s about to change with the addition of turf field. It’s going in for various athletic events arena operators want to host.

“It’ll be the only surface for that is actually certified for rugby, which opens a whole new door for those programs,” said John Rodda, who runs Anchorage’s Parks and Recreation Department.

That’s one of the ways Rodda and other city leaders considered ways to generate more for the arena.

The Alaska Aces folded in April. The hockey team had been the arena’s main tenant and responsible for close to half of the building’s revenue. That decision increased talks of how to raise more money. City leaders decided to go after indoor sports, especially after the collapse of the dome.

“It will be a smaller surface, it will cost less, but, you will still be equally competitive,” Rodda told KTVA.

Anchorage Assembly Chairman Dick Traini is among those who believe arena is too big to fail.

“The Sullivan Arena was built on oil money, now, we have to pay to maintain it, just the cost of doing business,” said Traini.

Taxpayers had to come up with an extra $600,000 to help keep the Sullivan Arena in business. That’s how much they had to pay for last year’s losses, which the city is responsible for under a 2011 contract with SMG, which runs the arena. Add to that and another $1.5 million a year to maintain the building.

Sullivan Arena has managed to lure some big events. It will house the Fall Gun Show in October — after it spent the last ten years at the Alaska State Fairgrounds in Palmer. Plus, Luke Bryan and Miranda Lambert will perform at the arena this year. Despite that, arena operators say getting other big name performers is still a challenge.

“For us, it’s minimally a day to get here, a day to go back, so, it takes three days out of a tour to play one show,” said Sullivan Arena General Manager Joe Wooden.

He and other operators of Sullivan Arena say the turnaround to their financial problems starts with teams taking the field, on a new field.

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