NHL lockout costs Pittsburgh area economy $2.1M for each home game lost
Amy Dilday and Harry Sage live in different states and have never met, yet both planned to spend money in Pittsburgh this holiday weekend.
The NHL lockout, in its 67th day, placed those plans on ice. Their canceled trips cost two city hotels and several restaurants and shops about $3,000 in expected revenue this week.
This week marks “the unofficial start to hockey season in Pittsburgh,” said Dilday, 45, of Sylvania, Ohio, who attends about six Penguins home games every season.
“I told my sister, ‘They usually play two games around Thanksgiving, so let's go to Pittsburgh for four days, see the games, and we can do Christmas shopping at the stores,” Dilday said. She planned to cook a turkey dinner Thursday at the kitchenette inside her room at the Cambria Suites.
She canceled that four-night stay at the hotel next door to Consol Energy Center.
An average Penguins home game is worth about $2.1 million to the region, according to a study from the tourism bureau VisitPittsburgh. The Penguins usually collect between $1 million and $1.3 million in revenue, which leaves restaurants, hotels and other businesses to share anywhere from $800,000 to $1.1 million.
The NHL canceled games through Nov. 30, and the Penguins will have lost out on 11 home dates by then. If negotiators don't reach a new labor deal — the NHL and its Players' Association are to meet again Wednesday in New York — the league will cancel games through Dec. 15.
Sage, 39, a Uniontown native living in Maryland, scrapped his two-night reservation at the Hilton Doubletree, Downtown. His early Christmas gift to his two sons was going to be their first Penguins game, and a chance to “skate at the ice rink in (PPG Place), just like they heard about their parents doing last year.”
The lockout began when the contract expired Sept. 15. The NHL has lost an estimated $600 million, deputy Commissioner Bill Daly said. Revenue hit a record $3.3 billion last season, but leaders expect financial backlash from disappointed fans and sponsors, Daly said.
No North American pro sports league had lost a season to a labor dispute before a lockout wiped out the 2004-05 NHL campaign. The NHL rebounded during the past seven years to average 95 percent capacity and land a long-term TV deal with NBC Sports worth $2 billion.
A second lost season in eight years would likely permanently damage hockey in strong markets such as Pittsburgh, said Lynn Lashbrook, founder of Portland-based Sports Management World Wide.
“I call it a fiscal cliff on ice,” he said. “It's real, and we're heading there.”
Businesses are feeling the impact in Western Pennsylvania.
“The hotel industry in Pittsburgh is strong, but we've seen impact on both our occupancy and food/beverage revenues,” said John Hannon, COO of Horizon Hospitality, which operates the Cambria Suites. He declined to provide specifics.
Companies that are corporate sponsors such as Dick's Sporting Goods declined to address the impact on their businesses.
A deal between the team and Oakwood-based Cellone's Bakery ended after last season. The last lockout coincided with the first year of that contract, and Cellone's vice president of sales Joe DiCenzo said the canceled season “was rough” for the bakery.
“There is more behind a sponsorship than selling a certain amount of product in the arena,” he said. “It also generates sales in the grocery stores because of the advertising aspect. You can't make that up. You just don't get your full dollar.”
The Penguins have not laid off employees and have no plans to cut salaries, though radio and TV broadcasters, like the players, are not paid during the lockout.
Penguins games on Root Sports last season averaged an 8.7 local rating —the percentage of available TV audience for Western Pennsylvania and parts of Ohio and West Virginia. That mark was highest for any NHL or NBA team.
Root Sports will lose about $50,000 for each of the 23 games canceled.
The 550 members of SEIU Local 188 – the union representing Consol Energy Center ushers, security and cleaners – have gone from angry to complacent, union President Robert Fazio said.
“They can't do anything about it,” he said. “There was hope in October, but now we hear they'll be playing maybe in January, and that's just a rumor. Why get your hopes up? Our guys think both sides are being (jerks).”
“There are people disgusted,” said Paul Elphinstone, an usher at Penguins home games for 14 years who uses his game checks to “buy presents for the grandkids.”
Retail stores take a hit because the lockout will at least impact Black Friday and perhaps the bulk of the December holiday shopping season.
“Christmas is when we do our big Penguins items – the specialized jerseys, and the hats and hoodies,” said Carla Jeke, who operates Perani's Hockey World in Scott. “The rest of the year it's only about 10 percent because youth hockey is so big, but at Christmas, it's going to be down if they aren't playing.”
Rob Rossi is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Penguins notebook: Dupuis’ intangibles provide 1st-line value
- Penguins co-owner Lemieux snuffs rumored rift with Crosby
- Crosby scores twice, Malkin delivers OT goal as Penguins beat Blues
- Penguins notebook: Blues defenseman Bortuzzo sticks to brutish ways
- Occupying playoff spot on Thanksgiving good harbinger for Penguins
- Penguins’ Perron returning to form
- Hard-hitting Penguins veteran winger Kunitz is last of a dying breed
- Starkey: Farewell to NHL fighting
- Penguins notebook: Cole more at ease facing former team