MASSENA - Despite warnings from officials to stay away from bears, folks are flocking to them in Massena.
The SUNY Potsdam Bears mens hockey team, that is.
The team is calling the Massena Arena their home ice this season while renovations are completed at Maxcy Hall, and Massena Recreation Superintendent Richard A. Boprey said the welcome for the team has been nothing less than enthusiastic.
This is something that is just absolutely a blessing in disguise for us and for Massena, Mr. Boprey told members of the Massena Joint Recreation Commission Wednesday.
The Bears have a 10-game contract with the Massena Recreation Department, and five games have already been played before hundreds of fans, he said. The first two games drew approximately 300 people, according to Mr. Boprey, but a Nov. 3 game against Plattsburgh State brought in approximately 1,070 people. He said their concession stand made $1,140 that one night alone.
Two games this past weekend drew about 425 to 450 people per game, Mr. Boprey said.
As the games have gone on, more and more of the people from Massena are coming to these games, he said.
Town Councilman Albert N. Nicola, the towns liaison to the Recreation Commission, said members of the Italian-American Club that he belongs to have been equally ecstatic about the games in Massena.
They wouldnt miss them. They think its wonderful, he said. Ive had nothing but good likes and good comments from people who go.
When they see the product, people from Massena are really impressed, Recreation Commission Chairman David M. MacLennan said.
The games have become such a hit, Mr. Boprey said, that local businesses like Vino Vidi Vici in the Harte Haven Shopping Center have seen an increase in their businesses on nights when the arena is packed to the rafters with fans.
And the fans keep it an enjoyable experience, he noted.
College crowds are like no other crowd. Theres no worry about what is going on in the parking lot, theres no worry about what is going on under the bleachers. The crowd comes, they cheer and go home, he said.
Board member John J. Horan said teams that had played at the Massena Arena were just as enthusiastic as the fans.
The teams participating here have been impressed with the support of Rich and the staff, he said. The place has a nice feel. The players have enjoyed it. They say the playing surface is terrific. Both clubs commented that it was a positive experience.
Mr. Boprey said the college charges an admission of $4 for ages 22 and up, $2 for ages 12 to 22, and under 12 are free. But the gate receipts arent important, he said.
Rather, Mr. Boprey said, college administrators have said they want to make a donation to the community. So, during a Feb. 16 game against Cortland, theyll be making a donation to the Massena Rescue Squad, which is on standby at the arena for their games.
They know they arent making money on the game. Theyre putting their money toward civic organizations around Massena, he said.