Here’s an interesting nugget on a Monday afternoon.
Comcast Spectacor sent out a press release announcing that they’re selling three of the local Skate Zone properties to a Maryland-based company called “Black Bear Sports Group.”
Of course the Flyers practice facility in Voorhees is NOT part of the deal, but the rinks in Atlantic City, Pennsauken, and the one up near the airport in the GREAT Northeast are changing hands.
Here’s the release:
Philadelphia, Pa. (September 14, 2020) – Comcast Spectacor has reached an agreement with Black Bear Sports Group, Inc. for the sale of three of its Skate Zone ice rink locations in Northeast, Phila., Pennsauken, NJ, and Atlantic City, NJ. Full transfer of ownership and operation is planned to go into effect within 30 days pending receipt of the necessary approvals and completion of the sale.
“We are thrilled to expand our portfolio of rinks with the addition of these three Skate Zone locations,” said Murry Gunty, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Black Bear Sports Group, Inc. “We look forward to applying our expertise to help elevate these facilities and to make an impact in the communities they serve.”
Former Philadelphia Flyers captain Keith Primeau, who initiated the talks with Comcast Spectacor, will be a minority owner in the acquisition and will spearhead the strategic vision of the three facilities. The two-time NHL All Star transitioned to the business side of the sport after his playing career and is also currently President of Hockey Operations for the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL. Primeau, a long-time South Jersey resident, has had decades of first-hand experience with the youth hockey market in the region and raised four children in the area including three sons who competed at every level and in these rinks.
“I have seen up close the rich tradition of youth hockey in this region and have experienced it from every angle including coaching, parenting and operations,” said Primeau. “Our goal is to foster local talent and provide them the facilities and programming to pursue their hockey dreams, whatever that level may be. My passion right now is improving the accessibility to the sport of hockey for young players and their families.”
At the conclusion of this deal, Black Bear Sports Group, a national community ice rink operator, will own and manage 22 rinks nationally including 15 in the Tri-State area. The organization also owns a number of junior and youth hockey clubs and will acquire all hockey programming at the three Skate Zone locations. At the junior level, Black Bear currently co-owns and manages the Youngstown Phantoms of the USHL, and owns the Maryland Black Bears of the NAHL and Team Maryland of the EHL. Last year 28 players from the Phantoms received Division I scholarships while two were drafted in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The Maryland Black Bears sent 15 players to college hockey and seven Team Maryland players earned college commitments.
Comcast Spectacor will continue to own and operate Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone at Voorhees and will continue to focus on managing this location as the world-class training facility for the Philadelphia Flyers. A new multi-year marketing arrangement will allow Comcast Spectacor to continue to identify with these rinks and allow both the Flyers and Black Bear to promote their goods and services to each other’s respective fans and customers.
“Black Bear Sports is a proven force in elevating community ice rinks and youth hockey programming,” said Valerie Camillo, President of Business Operations, Philadelphia Flyers & Wells Fargo Center. “We look forward to working with Black Bear to inspire and shape the next generation of hockey players and fans in the region.”
It would seem as though operations will continue as normal, though no word on whether employees will keep their jobs during the changeover.
This line about Black Bear jumped out at me:
“The organization also owns a number of junior and youth hockey clubs and will acquire all hockey programming at the three Skate Zone locations.”
The Skate Zones run a variety of leagues/clubs/tournaments and house academy operations, so they’re a key part of the local hockey community here in the Delaware Valley. Not sure why Comcast wanted to shift ownership of three of these places, but they’ve been re-working their hockey portfolio in the years follower Ed Snider’s passing, with some new folks involved in the decision making over there. And when I say “over there,” of course I mean in the two big-ass towers that lord over Philadelphia.