Business Column

New York state-funded improvements to Syracuse Crunch arena would benefit downtown Syracuse in revenue

Built in 1951, the War Memorial Arena in Syracuse is largely regarded as one of the most outdated arenas in the American Hockey League.

The owner of the Syracuse Crunch announced last week that he requested significant funds from New York state for improvements to the War Memorial, where the Crunch play. These funds would fix broken video screens and add more bathrooms and several new amenities, including a scoreboard and a restaurant. While upgrades to the War Memorial are certainly necessary, the question remains: Should New York state contribute?

During the funding request announcement, Syracuse Crunch owner Howard Dolgon stressed that the upgrades are not just for the Crunch, but for the building and the city.

New York state’s decision to fund the improvements to the War Memorial really only comes down to its return on investment. But at the core of the plan, an upgraded War Memorial would definitely attract more fans to Crunch games and ultimately drive more consumers to downtown Syracuse.

“The vast majority of sporting complexes in the United States are owned by states, cities, government municipalities, and it’s not unusual for there to be considerations between the team and the facility,” said Patrick Ryan, a sport management instructor at Syracuse University’s David B. Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics.

Ryan added that the Crunch is a good hockey team with a responsible owner, and said the improvements to the War Memorial would only benefit the city in the long term.

The proposed upgrades to the War Memorial are also focused on improving the marketability of the arena. The Crunch is currently the primary tenant of the arena, but the proposed upgrades could attract other tenants.

“If there’s new seating, new locker rooms, new amenities — let’s say a musical act wouldn’t have played there before, but maybe they would now,” said Patrick Walsh, an assistant professor of sport management at Falk College.

If the War Memorial could attract a musical act, for instance, that would draw people from all over the area to see the act and then spend money downtown. Those people would be paying for parking, going to bars and restaurants and generating tax revenue for the city.

“As opposed to driving, parking, coming in and leaving, maybe now you come a little earlier, or you stay a little later,” Walsh said. “And that reflects on the team obviously. The state of the arena reflects on the team.”

The Crunch are a good team. They currently sit in first place in the North Division of the AHL. An improved arena would increase overall fan attendance, but also fan enjoyment. Instead of showing up just in time for the game and leaving shortly after, fans would be more inclined to make an entire evening out of a Crunch game. After a big win, those fans would hopefully celebrate the victory with drinks downtown.

While it’s certainly difficult to measure the exact economic impact of an improved War Memorial, the proposed upgrades would certainly drive more economic activity to the already rejuvenating downtown Syracuse area.

New York, this is an opportunity you don’t want to miss.

Alex Straus is a sophomore public relations major and finance minor. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at astraus@syr.edu.

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