News from Patrick Flynn

Arena acrimony

Visitors to Anchorage often comment on the remarkable array of public facilities our community enjoys.  Be it parks, the airport or venues like the Dena’ina Convention Center and Sullivan Arena, I don’t know of any similarly sized city that enjoys such a terrific collection of public opportunities.  But, to paraphrase an old saying, with great opportunity comes the potential for great conflict.

Early last month I had a meeting with the board of the Anchorage Home Builders Association.  We’d met once previously and, as before, I enjoyed a good conversation about municipal issues related to their businesses, even though we don’t necessarily agree on every issue.  One matter they mentioned was concern about rumors related to the Sullivan Arena, something about a new agreement between our local professional hockey team, the Alaska Aces, and the arena operator, SMG.  AHBA’s concern was that such an agreement might jeopardize their annual Home & Remodeling Show, a signature event important to their business they feel can only be held at the arena.

Readers likely recall that the Aces’ home playoff games had to be relocated to the Menard Memorial Arena in Wasilla this spring, and it made sense that the team would seek to avoid a repeat of that circumstance.  So, on June 8, when Assembly members received a copy of the following letter it caught my attention:

Dear Mayor Sullivan:

I am writing to express my disappointment and outrage at the Municipality of Anchorage’s recent decision to kill the Alaska Women’s Show.  After doing business as Alaska’s largest trade show producer for more than 20 years, Aurora Productions does not deserve the unfair treatment it has received. More importantly, the city has made it clear that small, women-owned businesses that rely on the Alaska Women’s Show for a large percentage of their livelihood, are not a priority in this Administration.

I started producing the Great Alaska Sportsman Show in Anchorage in 1984, and now produce five of the most successful events in this city. Over the years, I have been an exemplary customer of the Sullivan Arena and the Egan Center, never once missing a payment or fulfilling a promise-whether it was in writing or verbal agreement and a gentleman’s handshake. The Alaska Women’s Show has a 17-year history.

It baffles me as to how the Municipality could determine that it is in the best interests of its citizens to turn your back on a long-term partner, and to potentially have the Sullivan Arena sit empty during the months of April and May each year, just “in case” the Alaska ACES make it to the play-offs. When municipal code mandates that the Sullivan Arena was “constructed by
public funds, the arena operates for the broadest public benefit” I request, on behalf of everyone in Anchorage, for you to explain how a sure money-maker and economic engine like the Alaska Women’s Show is a lesser priority than a possible play-off hockey game.

The fact that this “exclusive contract” with the Alaska ACES was made behind closed doors, without consulting me or any other users of the Sullivan Arena, let alone the public, is inexcusable. I hope that the citizens of Anchorage will join me in voicing their outrage for this insider dealing.


Steve Shepherd
Aurora Productions, Inc.

I asked the administration for a response at that evening’s Assembly meeting, later followed up with an e-mail and a conversation with an administration official, and have yet to hear back.  But I did see an article in the paper on the subject.  Readers will note the above letter’s author seems somewhat mollified, despite losing the Winter Recreation and Travel Show in 2011.  And, because AHBA’s event takes place in March they appear unaffected.

It’s worth noting that SMG is a private, for-profit company that operates several Anchorage-area public facilities and it’s my understanding that the Aces provide the most revenue of any Sullivan Arena user, so it makes sense to try accommodating the Aces’ needs.  What puzzles me about this matter is the apparent silence of both SMG and the Administration, as well as their failure to keep stakeholders in the loop.  Public-private partnerships work best when all parties remember the public deserves to know what’s going on before agreements are struck, not after.



This contribution was made on Friday, 02. July 2010 at 07:11 and was published under the category Other. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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  1. Whatever the contract with SMG, it should reflect the original intention of the Project 80s facilities.

    Comment: hf – 21. July 2010 @ 12:57 pm

  2. Speaking of the Sullivan Arena, what ever happened to the group of Aces owners who wanted to bump SMG and take over the management of the arena? Did that ever happen?

    As far as having state-of-the-art, you’re right that the Dena’ina Center is beautiful. But Patrick, the Sullivan Arena!?!

    It’s probably the oldest arena in the WCHA college league, and one of the absolute worst in the ECHL that the Aces play in.

    The only renovations its seen has been to repair a leaking roof, new bathrooms, and a splash of paint on the outside. The center-ice scoreboard is antiquated and often doesn’t work properly. It has old “pac man” style video lettering on it for crying out loud!

    With all the oil money in this state, we can’t even get money to put up a decent digital scoreboard!?!? Remember when a piece of it fell a few years ago when the Seawolves hockey team was practicing? It broke the foot of one of the players. I thought way back then that they’d look at replacing the piece of junk. Nope.

    And what about those gawd awful filthy dirty plastic seats? The yellow seats in the front are pathetic, but the orange and red aren’t much better. They are hard, cold, filthy dirty, and uncomfortable. Patrick, look at pictures of any arena in either the WCHA (that the Seawolves play in) or the ECHL (that the Aces play in) and you won’t see such a deteriorating ice arena as the one we play in.


    I only wish someone in our city.. a council member, the mayor… SOMEONE.. would stand up for the arena and DO SOMETHING about it!

    Since UAA isn’t planning to add ice to their new $105 million dollar sports arena, it’s crazy that no one in our city will try to allocate funds for a major renovation of the Sullivan Arena.

    The inside of the arena is dismal, outdated, and depressing!!

    Comment: lynn – 22. September 2011 @ 2:13 pm

  3. I wish the Assembly would get off their duff and RENOVATE or TEAR DOWN the Sullivan Arena.

    I agree that it is the most horrific, disgusting, old, antiquated arena that either the Aces or the Seawolves play in.

    How on earth can you say that it’s a terrific facility assemblyman Flynn?

    The scoreboard at center ice hardly even works anymore, the floor is cracked and falling apart in huge sections, the glass around the ice hasn’t been changed out and years and is so etched up it’s difficult to see, and yes, those filthy, nasty, dirty hard plastic seats are atrocious.

    I realize Mayor Dan Sullivan gives diddly-squat about the city. We all know what his agenda is. But I always assumed that at least some of the assembly members who I see watching hockey games at our dive actually cared. Evidently not.

    Shame on anyone on the Anchorage assembly who would call the scuzzy Sullivan Arena a “fantastic facility”.

    It stinks!

    Comment: hockey player – 27. March 2013 @ 10:54 pm

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