|Civic Center, Coffey waiting on each other
August 8, 2002
Home dates, practice time among Tide boss's concerns
By Jack Corcoran
DEMOCRAT STAFF WRITER
The Tallahassee Tide are all moved in, but they still haven't closed the deal on their new home. That's why Civic Center executive director Ron Spencer is starting to get antsy with owner Bill Coffey, who is busy trying to get the ACHL off the ground.
"I'm giving him the benefit of the doubt based on the fact of how hard he's working," Spencer said Monday. "I know what he's going through. But there's going to come a point here real soon where all the i's are going to have to be dotted and the t's crossed."
In a good-faith move, Spencer allowed the Tide to move into their offices at the arena last month even though - contrary to Coffey's public comments July 12 - they hadn't signed the lease agreement and come up with the initial payment of $75,000. Spencer wouldn't say whether he had a drop-dead date in mind but acknowledged time is short.
"There will be a point where he will have to get everything squared away or else we just won't have a franchise," Spencer said. "There has got to be a point where certainly he has to realize that he has used up whatever amount of luxury time he had."
Coffey, who is also president and founder of the Atlantic Coast Hockey League, said he's the one who's waiting. He said the Civic Center has yet to present him with the final list of available home dates for the 2002-03 season, preventing him from committing to Tallahassee.
"If there aren't enough available dates, you don't play," Coffey said from the league office in Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. "You don't take a bath."
There are other ominous signs. Coffey described initial fan interest as "below average," noting that only about one-third of the Tallahassee Tiger Sharks' old season-ticket base have reached into their wallets to support minor-league hockey's second gamble in the Capital City. He also made practice time - a thorny subject for years with the Tiger Sharks - an issue for the first time. He said Florida State's new basketball practice facility will not create as much ice time as he was originally led to believe. On top of that, he added that the lease agreement isn't quite a done deal.
"There's a couple things I have questions about," Coffey said. "We'll see if we can get them ironed out."
Coffey said a lot will factor into his decision.
"I'll wait until I get my dates and look at them and see if I can fit them in," Coffey said. "Can I squeeze out 20 Fridays and Saturdays without going against Florida State football? Is there a long dry spell? Practice ice? You look at everything. I do this for a living. I'm not like (Michel) Cadrin or any of the (Tiger Sharks') previous owners. If it doesn't make financial sense, I just don't do it - period. I'm not saying that right now. I haven't seen the dates to know whether or not they fit."
Coffey said he hopes to complete the ACHL's schedule this week. It remains unclear how many teams will be on board. The league is still trying to add franchises in Birmingham and Macon. Fayetteville, Orlando, Jacksonville, St. Petersburg and Knoxville appear set for the inaugural season. Lakeland backed out last month.
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