Daily Herald
Allstate Arena expects to weather loss of AFL Rush
By Ted Cox | Daily Herald Staff
Published: 8/7/2009 12:00 AM

The Allstate Arena says the impending failure of the Arena Football League will have a minimal effect on its revenues and operations.

"I expect our revenues to remain steady this year," said Harry Pappas, executive director of the Rosemont stadium. "I don't think we'll have any appreciable drop."

The arena already went without the Rush this spring after the off-season indoor football league announced it was going on hiatus last December. Attempts to keep the league vital, even looking ahead to a 2011 revival, reportedly are at an end, with one league owner stating the AFL would soon file for bankruptcy.

That's a pity for the Rush, one of the more successful franchises in the league, and for its home, the Allstate Arena.

"They were a good tenant," Pappas said, "and we miss them now."

Yet having already filled the gap this spring, Pappas said they're prepared to go into the future without the Rush by filling dates instead with concerts and other sporting events.

The Allstate Arena would typically play host to eight Rush games a season, counting playoffs, with crowds at or near capacity. The family fan base was a benefit as well, especially in recessionary times, as it turned out.

"In certain forms of live entertainment, the recession brings people to the live event," Pappas insisted, "such as the circus and the family shows that we do, both here and at the (Rosemont Theatre)."

Entertainment, while not recession-proof, is more flexible in its costs than other industries, like automobiles.

"Promoters and the artists, for the most part, adjust their prices," Pappas said, "and that makes it more attractive for people to come out."

Allstate Arena had no trouble filling dates this year, Pappas said, and he doesn't expect any in the future.

"We did an awful lot of concerts in May," he said. "I think the revenue will balance itself out with the other events. We're also looking to add some other sports programs."

Pappas declined to get specific, citing the competitive nature of the booking business, but did say there have been talks about luring over the Slaughter, reigning unbeaten champion of the Continental Indoor Football League, from its current home at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

"It has been discussed," Pappas admitted. "I said I wouldn't be in a position to do that unless the Arena Football League fell through."

Those days appear to have arrived, although AFL founder Jim Foster insists bankruptcy talk is just that, talk, and has floated the idea of continuing on with the most successful franchises from the AFL and its smaller offshoot, arenafootball2.

"He just asked me if the building would look at putting an AFL team there," Pappas said. "If he had a sports franchise in a credible league, why not?"

Although Pappas pointed out the new league would have to be "released of any and all obligations" from the flop of the original AFL.

Pappas said he expects to have some sort of spring sports tenant next year, "and it won't conflict with our other programs."

An independent, third-party audit found Allstate Arena cleared almost $5 million last year, and Pappas did not expect that to decline this year, saying, "The Allstate Arena has always provided a good location and outlet for family entertainment."