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Rupp: Gems need new investors to keep team operating next year

March 22, 2012 - Central Hockey League (CHL) - Dayton Gems News Release

The Dayton Gems professional hockey league held a press conference at Hara Arena today to make a somber announcement about their future.

The team was represented by owner Kathy Rupp, President Joe Greene, Head Coach Brian Gratz and Director of Commuity and Media Relations JT Szabo.

Greene took to the podium first, and highlighted some of the team's many accomplishments, including a 72% attendance increase from two seasons ago, a 381% increase in group ticket sales over the past two years, and a 52% increase in the all-important gross ticket revenue in the past season alone.

After that, Greene introduced Rupp, who presented the media in attendance with a brief time-line of her ownership group's history with the team. Rupp, Dr. Paul Nitz and Rob Garfield took the team over in November 2009 in an effort to save the team, save people's jobs and save professional hockey in Dayton.

Rupp said the intent was always to find an expanded ownership group of 10 to 12 people, but they were never able to bring anyone else on board. Rupp, Nitz and Garfield were forced to fund the team on their own for half of the 2009-10 season, and the entire 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons.

Now, however, Rupp says that they will need to find those investors if the team is going to operate the team next season.

According to Rupp, the Gems have quietly tried talking to local investors, out of town investors, and have even contacted other teams who might know people that could get involved.

The team is now done being discreet.

They invited television cameras and the rest of the local media to cover their announcement. Sinclair Broadcasting (Fox45, ABC22) and WDTN (NBC2) were there along with our site. The Dayton Daily News will most likely be reporting on the story as well.

Rupp, who was emotional at times, also said she hoped that the final game of the season - and possibly in the history of the Dayton Gems - would be a sell-out.

"It would be fabulous for the community," said Rupp.

Greene got back behind the podium and pointed out that there's absolutely no similarity between the Gems situation and that of the defunct Dayton Bombers who folded at the end of the 2008-09 season.

The Bombers, said Greene, were on a "downward trajectory" while in the Gems case, all of their numbers were headed in the right direction.

Greene pointed out that the Gems helped boost the economy with 100 jobs on game nights, visiting fans would spend their money in Dayton, along with all Gems players and employees putting their money into the local economy as well.

The Gems also gave over $50,000 to charitable causes since the present owners took over.

It would seem our concerns about what league the Gems would play in next season was a case of putting the cart before the horse. Unless additional investors step forward, or there isn't continued financial backing from Rupp, Nitz and Garfield, the Gems won't be playing anywhere at all.

Unlike many other struggling minor-league professional sports teams, it is widely believed that the Gems have honored all their financial obligations. It would seem, though, that for the present owners that two and a half years of steep losses was enough.

So unless others want to throw their hat in the ring and become a part owner of a minor league professional hockey team, the Dayton Gems may be playing their final home game in franchise history on March 24, 2012 at Hara Arena, with their last game ever the next night in Fort Wayne, Indiana against the rival Komets.

For now, the Gems have set one last goal: sell out the home finale this Saturday.

They've dubbed the game Pack The House Night and they'll be giving away 1,000 youth jerseys, and hosting a benefit for 1-year old Caleb Zwiebel who was badly injured in a car accident late last year.

One source told us that ticket pre-sales for the game are already at 4,000 - so a sell-out certainly might be possible.

We obviously hope this isn't the final game in the history of the Dayton Gems, but if it is, going out with a sell-out (and hopefully a win) would be such an incredible contrast from where the team was in November 2009 when Rupp, Nitz and Garfield were handed the keys to the franchise.

Those three owners have certainly done their part for professional hockey in Dayton. But now they're asking for additional local investors to help them keep the team going next year.

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