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Reprinted from: Green Bay Press-Gazette

April 5, 2008

Men's basketball:
Reworked deal keeps Phoenix at Resch

By Tom Pelissero

ASHWAUBENON - The University of Wisconsin-Green Bay could be reimbursed for as much as 60 percent of its rent as part of the five-year agreement recently finalized to keep its men's basketball games at the Resch Center.

Rather than relying on tedious calculations of concessions sales or other revenue-sharing possibilities, PMI, which operates the Resch, agreed to a three-tiered system of rent rebates that would reward UWGB if it draws well. Though it's unlikely attendance regularly will reach the level needed to trigger the highest rebate rate, the contract gives the university greater earning potential, particularly if improved play leads to an expansion of its fan base.

"We have an opportunity for both of us to win now," UWGB athletic director Ken Bothof said this week. "It's been good; (PMI has) been helpful. They're going to continue to be that way to help us with things, and I think that's what our partnership and relationship is about."

Since the building opened in 2002, UWGB's lease had called for a yearly rent of $1, but the school reimbursed PMI for operations costs, from setting up the court to paying ushers and ticket takers.

Under the new agreement, UWGB will pay an all-inclusive rent of $5,565 per game, instead of receiving itemized invoices. For each game, the school will get back 20 percent of that fee if attendance exceeds 4,000; 40 percent if it exceeds 5,000; and 60 percent if it exceeds 6,000.

Bothof had lengthy conversations with PMI's president, Ken Wachter, about percentage splits of food and beverage revenue, but they opted for a less-complicated system.

It's a low-risk proposition for PMI because higher attendance means more revenue from concessions and parking, which the company doesn't share with UWGB. PMI also takes in a $1 facility fee from every ticket sold.

"The mission is the same," Wachter said. "We all want people in there."

The UWGB men finished last season 15-15 and ranked fourth in the Horizon League in attendance, averaging 3,868 for 14 home dates. Had the new agreement been in place, the school would have earned rebates totaling $7,791 from last season's four largest draws: Jan. 5 against Wright State (4,011), Jan. 19 against UW-Milwaukee (5,587), Feb. 7 against Valparaiso (4,721) and Feb. 9 against Butler (6,984). Three other crowds exceeded 3,500.

Bothof and Wachter had discussed the agreement for a year and agreed to all major details about two months ago.

Though the team almost never has come close to filling the 9,729-seat arena during its six-year stay, Bothof said the school didn't consider moving games from an arena constructed with the men's team in mind to the cozier Kress Events Center (capacity: 4,018) on campus.

"It goes back to the original commitment made by our chancellor indicating we're going to play our men's games at the Resch Center," said Bothof, citing location and nearby eating and entertainment options as other factors.

"That was important, No. 1, from a fundraising standpoint for the on-campus facility. Lots of community leaders were involved in that decision, saying, 'We supported the Resch Center with the men's basketball team playing there, and we want them to continue playing there.'"

Talks are ongoing about using curtains to reduce the seating capacity for UWGB games and create a more intimate atmosphere.

Later this month, PMI will put three seating arrangements on display for university representatives, who could opt to cut capacity to anywhere from about 4,800 to 7,200. The reduction would provide space if the school decides to offer pregame meals for season ticket holders, and the curtains could be lifted to accommodate overflow crowds.

The new agreement, which requires a two-year opt-out notice from either side, also clears up language guaranteeing UWGB 10 Saturday nights per season. The school retains "priority status" for booking in a building that in the winter months also hosts the Green Bay Gamblers, a junior hockey team owned by PMI, as well as concerts and other events.

PMI has taken measures to help the UWGB men's basketball program in the past, including offering half-price parking passes to season ticket holders and starting a ticket-exchange program for fans who miss a game.

"In our business, a lot of stuff, it's not guaranteed that it's coming," Wachter said. "You need to be able to say, 'OK, I have tenants.' My tenants are hockey, basketball and arena football in this case, and between the three tenants, we have almost 50 dates out of the year, so it's pretty good. You know you're going to have those 50 dates, and in GB's case, it brings a good group of folks down here 16 times out of the year."

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