Reporting Bill Hudson
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ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) – ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Instead of crowded streets and excited fans swarming into the Xcel Energy Center, the continuing lockout is keeping the game on ice.
What appeared to be a promising season after the Minnesota Wild signed Zach Parise and Ryan Suter in the off-season is now filled with doubt and frustration.
“Today, we should be celebrating the start to the NHL season,” St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman pointed out.
The mayor, various business leaders and employees gathered outside the Wild’s arena to send a message to both NHL owners and players.
In St. Paul, Denver and Nashville, the announcement was directed squarely at the league. Cities dependent on game-day revenues are turning up the heat in hopes of ending the ongoing labor dispute.
They want it resolved and the games to resume in order to end economic pain being felt by downtown businesses and their workers.
“It’s about half of our gross revenues,” said Kevin Geisen, co-owner of Eagle Street Grille near the Xcel Energy Center.
Instead of employing a full staff of 50 servers and bartenders, Geisen and his partner are themselves tending bar and serving tables. The huge drop in business at Eagle Street Grill is costing them dearly, both economically and emotionally.
“The thing that gives me the most pride is employing people,” Geisen said. “It’s hard to tell them that they can’t come to work.”
It’s also sadly ironic that instead of paying for her kids to play youth hockey, Meg Hyland’s being hurt financially by the sport. That’s because her hours are being reduced by the work stoppage while her worries grow.
For her kids, youth hockey will have to wait.
“It’s expensive,” Hyland said. “But the bigger concern as this goes on is how do I pay the mortgage, or put food on the table? It’s the bigger things.”
With every scratched Wild game, everything from bars to parking lots will be out more than $900,000. City figures show that the 18,000 fans spend on average about $50 each on food, beverages and souvenirs.
And the loss of every game will also cost workers like Hyland a badly needed paycheck.
“I think it’s time for the owners and the players to turn around and look at the impact it’s having on everyone else,” Hyland said.