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Saturday, August 21, 2004



[ ARENA FOOTBALL ]


Islanders faced
with ultimatum

The team must secure additional
revenue to operate next season


The Hawaiian Islanders are looking to their brethren in the business community to help them stay in business for the 2005 season.

Islanders' officials have been directed by team owner Charles Wang to secure an additional $525,000 in additional revenue by Sept. 30 in order to continue operations next year. The date coincides with the deadline for arenafootball2 franchises to submit signed letters to the league indicating their commitment to participate in the 2005 season.

Islanders executive director and general manager Chris Dey said the figure was agreed upon during discussions with team owners Charles Wang and Kimberly Dey, Wang's daughter, over the past week.

"Charles, Kimberly and I talked about what we thought was the appropriate target and we decided on it collectively and (Wang) gave us the challenge to go make it happen," Chris Dey said.

The team has set a revenue goal of $1.355 million for 2005. The team made $651,000 this past season and is shooting to raise an additional $525,000 through various sources, including sponsorships and ticket sales, by the end of next month.

The revenue goal includes projections of $461,000 in ticket sales -- a 47 percent increase over this past season -- and $725,000 in corporate sponsorships.

"I think we're going to have our greatest level of success with the small businesses in Hawaii because I don't think it's going to be a situation where we have three or four companies coming up with $100,000," Dey said. "It's going to be more a situation where you have 40 or 50 companies coming up with $10,000.

"I'm cautiously optimistic we'll be able to reach our goal by that particular date because we've been laying the groundwork and we've been earning respect over the last three years by putting out a good product and doing the right thing for those companies that have been participating."

Even if the team reaches its revenue goals next year, the team would still operate at a loss.

"When we hit that target the ownership group will still have to invest more than $200,000, and they're willing to do that," Dey said.

The Islanders began operations in the fall of 2001 when Honolulu was awarded an af2 franchise, with the Wang family as owners, and played their first season the following spring. Charles Wang also owns the New York Islanders of the National Hockey League and the New York Dragons of the Arena Football League.

On the field, the Islanders went 5-11 in 2002 and 11-7 in 2003, winning the West Division championship. They finished the past season at 8-8 and missed the af2 playoffs.

According to figures released by the team, the Islanders have lost close to $5.5 million in three years of operation. The team ended the just completed season with $1.38 million in losses, down from $2.4 million in 2002 and $1.7 million in 2003.

The Islanders increased their season-ticket sales to 1,495 this season -- compared to 1,200 in 2003 -- but fell short of their projections for corporate sponsorships and average attendance. The team drew an average of 3,600 fans to their eight home games this season, 85 percent of which was paid for.

Islanders management has taken steps to cut costs, such as laying off operational staff in the offseason and moving from a downtown office to a location in Kailua, saving the franchise $120,000 in rent and parking expenses.

Dey said the team has made inroads with its "Islanders Inspire" and "Islanders Business Club" programs. He said the team recently signed up five new packages for the Inspire program, in which companies purchase tickets for youth groups, bringing in close to $5,000 per game.

In addition to small businesses, Dey said the team will also look to larger entities for support as it strives to meet the deadline.

"The big question is, 'Does Hawaii really want a professional sports team?' " Dey said. "And if the answer is yes, are we as a community willing to do what it takes to support a professional sports team on all levels?

"If the answer is yes then six weeks is plenty of time."


Hawaiian Islanders
www.hawaiianislanders.com

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