WHEELING - Don Rigby hopes the money being invested in the Wheeling Nailers hockey team experience will create new fans and keep old ones coming back.
Rigby is executive director of the Regional Economic Development Partnership, the group that partnered with the Wheeling Amateur Hockey Association to purchase the team from brothers Jim and Rob Brooks last March. Collectively, the new owners are called the Hockey Club of the Ohio Valley.
The team was in danger of folding, and the new owners did not want to see that happen - not only for the long-time fans, but for the children who frequently use the Nailers' ice at WesBanco Arena. Without the Nailers, officials speculated they could not afford to keep the ice, which could have left WAHA without a home base.
File photo by Scott McCloskey
Tim Roberts, president of WAHA and one of the new Wheeling Nailers owners, speaks with youth hockey players outside of WesBanco Arena prior to a press conference announcing the sale in March.
Rigby said RED and WAHA have made at least a three-year commitment to trying to run the team and make it a profitable venture. Ticket sales are up, but Rigby said he doubts a profit will be made this year, mostly due to the investments being made at the arena. Such investments include new high-definition video boards, new video screens around the arena and new cameras.
"It's a different kind of business than we're used to," Rigby said. "We're pleased with the direction we're heading - ticket sales are up. It doesn't hurt that we're having a winning streak."
With the new video boards, the group is looking into having instant-replay action for its fans, in addition to "fan cam" shots of people enjoying themselves inside the arena. Adding such elements, he said, will hopefully enhance people's experience and make them want to see more games in person each year.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The past 12 months have been interesting - and at times, trying - for local residents, as natural gas drilling, politics, court cases and numerous other issues dominated the daily headlines. Through Sunday, The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register present the Ohio Valley's top 10 stories of 2012, as voted on by the newspapers' editors.
Other plans are in the works, but the group is taking it one step at a time. He hopes the fans will be patient.
Rigby said "something catastrophic" would have to happen for the group to give up on the team before the three years are up.
"We've made a commitment to the team and the region. ... We're not even close to anything like that," he said.