The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

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February 28, 2007

MIKE MASTOVICH | Proposal perks up owner

By nature, Jim Weber usually is a high-energy, enthusiastic person.

But in the past two weeks, the Johnstown Chiefs owner had been more subdued.

That changed Wednesday morning. Weber seemed rejuvenated. The Lancaster businessman displayed enthusiasm and excitement during a telephone interview. A few minutes earlier, he had received a fax detailing the Cambria County War Memorial Authority’s proposal to share revenue from food and beverage concessions sold during the ECHL team’s games.

“It’s as much or more than I would have wanted,” Weber said. “We have a sold-out building (Wednesday night). I know how to pack the house. It’s by lowering ticket prices and by doing special things.

“If this is all a smokescreen where they have unrealistic expenses in there, then it’s not going to work. But if they’re being open, honest and candid with me, I can make this work. I’m optimistic. I think the War Memorial board is trying to do something that works for everyone. In Johnstown, it’s a small pie.”

One point is certain: The Chiefs will stay in Johnstown next season.

The question is, what’s next?

If Weber and the War Memorial Authority reach a formal agreement, Weber probably would continue operating the team through next season and beyond. He is confident he can boost both attendance and concessions revenue enough to make hockey work in a market that has fielded one money-losing team after another.

There are two other scenarios that involve a potential sale to NHL teams.

Both of those NHL teams would keep the Chiefs in Johnstown next season. But one of those then would move the Chiefs in 2008-09 to a city where an arena for its minor-league club currently is being built.

The other NHL team would “make a go of it in Johnstown” for at least one year, Weber said, then reevaluate.

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