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Komets pursuing championship banner before heading into difficult lease negotiations with Memorial Coliseum

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The Fort Wayne Komet hockey team will square off against the South Carolina Stingrays for the ECHL championship, then look ahead to new lease negotiations with the Memorial Coliseum in a tough financial climate for both organizations.
Tuesday's announcement that the Komets will play a shortened season with 25 games at the Allen County Memorial Coliseum, and with attendance restricted to 25% capacity, or just over 2600 fans, means the facility actually will continue to lose money beyond the $3 million it's already lost.

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Fort Wayne's NBC) - The Komet hockey team is going through good times on the ice and then will face challenging times off the ice.

The Komets are three wins away from securing a 10th championship in franchise history.

But in the coming months, important negotiations loom with Memorial Coliseum management to try and lock down a new lease agreement.

The Komets on Friday will start a best of five showdown with the South Carolina Stingrays for the ECHL league title.

If the series goes the distance, games three, four and five will be played in front of supporting fans in the Coliseum arena.

There've been big highs and lows for the Komets in 2021.

For much of the season, the pandemic limited fan attendance, cutting revenues.

The team's lease with the Coliseum is up in September.

The K's for a long time have pushed for a better deal, wanting more than just ticket revenue, hoping to also capture a share of concession sales, suite rental fees and parking revenues.

But money is also tight for Coliseum management.

Because of COVID-19, the building's reserves evaporated.

There has been event cancellations, postponements and re-schedulings, one after another.

Both sides know there's a lot on the line in haggling over the new lease terms.

"You just can't keep going back to your fans and saying, well, will you pay $1 more or $2 more, it becomes where it is a negative for the consumer and that's usually where all this stuff goes, and the buck gets passed on and we don't like that," said Michael Franke, the Fort Wayne Komets President.

"This couldn't happen at a worse time when you think, with the pandemic…with the Coliseum, you know, we lost $3-million last year. We're going to lose probably about $4-million this year. But you just do the best you can," said Memorial Coliseum GM Randy Brown, who announced he will retire at the end of September, closely aligning with the expiration of the current Komets lease agreement.

The Komets beat the Allen Americans Tuesday night, winning the ECHL Western Conference Finals.

Jeff Neumeyer

Jeff Neumeyer is a reporter for WPTA.

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