PEORIA, Ill. -- It's a sight for sore eyes. The Rivermen were back on the ice at the Peoria Civic Center.
A few months ago that was far from a certainty. But now, as new members of the Southern Professional Hockey League, the team is counting on the loyalty of its fan base to make this incarnation of the franchise a success at the box office.
"A new league was something that we knew would be challenging but we've had a lot of support from the community and our season ticket holders," said Katie Pogeman, the team's assistant general manager in charge of director of ticket sales.
It appears the community has already embraced the SPHL version of the Rivermen. According to Pogeman, by the time the regular-season opener rolls around season ticket sales will surpass last year.
And single game tickets are about five dollars cheaper than a year ago. Already 4,000 have been sold for the opener. And practices during training camp are open to the public, free of charge.
"In the AHL days we wouldn't have had five fans out here watching training camp and so far we've had 80 people a night here," said Alan Fuehring, Rivermen director of media relations.
The return of the Rivermen also scores points for the Peoria Civic Center. The building hosts hundreds of events each year and having a professional sports franchise that calls Carver Arena its home helps attract business.
"Having regular tenants here helps with the integrity of the building," explained Megan Pedigo, assistant director of marketing for the Peoria Civic Center. "It helps show that we're a smooth operating team that knows how to handle big shows, how to handle big crowds and it really puts promoters and people who come into this arena at ease knowing that we do multiple events a year on this scale."
That makes for a winning atmosphere even before the puck is dropped.