Game is over for Lynx
City loses hockey team midseason
By Billy Byler| Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Video from the Lynx press conference.

After 10 1/2 years of minor league hockey in Augusta, time finally ran out on the Augusta Lynx.

Financial troubles and failed attempts to find additional investors caught up with the team, and Lynx owners Dan Troutman, Robert Burch and Jan Hodges Burch turned their league membership back in to the ECHL on Tuesday by a 5 p.m. deadline set by the league.

Mr. Troutman said he requested that the league take over operations to allow the Lynx to finish the season, but the ECHL Board of Governors voted against it, signifying the end of the team.

"We've had support in Augusta. We have. It just wasn't quite enough. Just like I'm standing here, and I don't quite have enough either right now," Ms. Burch said at a news conference at Enterprise Mill. "I'm sorry to Augusta. I'm sorry for the community. ... This is a great loss for Augusta."

Lynx ownership pleaded for financial help from any source at a news conference Friday, but the ECHL's deadline, set after the team approached the league seeking financial help, hit Tuesday without a deal in place. Mr. Troutman said the team needed $200,000 to $300,000 to continue operations.

The Lynx became the first team in the 21-year history of the ECHL to fold midseason. The league confirmed the news in a statement released Tuesday evening, saying, "The move comes as a result of the Augusta ownership group being unable to continue to operate in 2008."

"We wished we could have continued on," Mr. Burch said. "It's been one of those perfect storms where nobody is willing to step up to the plate and try to help save the hockey team in Augusta." Mr. Burch said the Lynx's financial problems weren't from sponsorship issues but came from lack of support.

"It's just that we didn't get the support from Augusta as far as people in the coliseum that we needed to come," he said. "You can look at our numbers, and we did very well with corporate sponsorship; we did very poorly with getting people to come out and see the game."

The Lynx have ranked no better than 20th in the ECHL in attendance over the past 21/2 seasons. Through seven games this season, the team averaged 2,722 fans per game, more than 1,600 fans below the league average.

Still, the Lynx have been the primary tenant at James Brown Arena since they began play in the 1998-99 season. Augusta-Richmond County Coliseum Authority Chairman Richard Isdell said the city's largest venue will miss the hockey team.

"I'm disappointed," he said. "If the Coliseum Authority could've done anything to keep them, we would have."

The Lynx signed a two-year lease in June with the coliseum authority that, for the first time, included a share of the parking and concessions revenue.

"They had to go above and beyond to reap those benefits," Mr. Isdell said. "I don't think they really did."

The Lynx leave 29 open dates, which Mr. Isdell said could help bring new acts to the arena for valuable weekend dates in the coming months.

Mr. Isdell said the team still owes $50,000 for signage from last season. He's unsure how much the Lynx owe this year.

"They've got some settling up to do with us before they walk out the door," he said.

After this weekend's Disney on Ice performance, Mr. Isdell said, the ice will be thawed to save money on cooling costs.

The Lynx's demise leaves the Augusta GreenJackets baseball team as the lone established minor league team in Augusta operating in 2009.

"I am deeply saddened by the news on the Augusta Lynx," Augusta Mayor Deke Copenhaver said in an e-mail. "The team, as well as the ownership of the organization, has been a key component of our city's growing reputation as being one of the premier minor league sports markets in the nation."

Staff writer Chris Gay contributed to this article.

Reach Billy Byler at (706) 823-3216 or billy.byler@augustachronicle.com.

From the Wednesday, December 03, 2008 edition of the Augusta Chronicle
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