The Waterloo Black Hawks’ first game at Young Arena was on January 14, 1995. Staff from both the team and the rink scrambled to meet the huge crowd. Many stood behind the west goal, and there, those who were well-prepared observed the B-Y-O-S (Bring Your Own Seat) suggestion. Bleachers in Sections I, J, K, or L had not yet been installed.
KWWL’s television cameras were on hand to broadcast the game, which began ceremonially when melted ice from McElroy Auditorium was sprinkled on the new playing surface. The 3,250 fans in the building that night were thunderously loud, setting the precedent for what would follow the first of hundreds of sellouts.
That night Waterloo lost, but a 5-2 victory one week later provided the first real chance to celebrate in the new building. The win came at the expense of P.K. O’Handley’s North Iowa Huskies. Players like Joe Pavelski, Craig Smith, Brandon Montour, and a host of others would help O’Handley and the Hawks win games with regularity, beginning with his hiring in 2002 and throughout the years which have followed.
Of the 55 consecutive seasons of hockey in Waterloo, 23 have been spent at Young Arena. It’s the only home for the sport many Black Hawks fans have ever known.
The new lease agreement between the team and the City of Waterloo, which was formalized earlier this week, assures that USHL hockey will continue to thrive in the community. Officially, the agreement lasts until 2020 and it could be extended until 2022. The prior lease had expired more than a year ago in late spring of 2016.
One aspect of the recently-adopted partnership is a new division of labor, which provides both the team and the city an added degree of certainty about the future. In exchange for an increased facility fee, the Black Hawks will manage all alcohol sales during hockey games for the first time ever. Meanwhile Young Arena staff will be in charge of all food and soft drinks.
As a result, Waterloo Leisure Services can rely on a more stable revenue stream which is not dependent on game attendance or other variables. The team has new flexibility to offer special promotions.
Others who work downtown will also continue to enjoy benefits which come with having a top tier sports attraction in the neighborhood. According to measurements by the Waterloo Convention and Visitors Bureau, the Black Hawks’ 30-game home schedule generates an economic impact of at least $2.4 million dollars annually. Visitors will continue coming to the community to see the team; that means they will continue staying in hotels, putting gas in their vehicles, eating in local restaurants, and more.
The big winners are the fans. Many of the topics discussed during negotiating sessions between the Hawks and Waterloo officials centered on the feedback received from season ticket holders and others in various surveys conducted over the last two years. With a new arrangement encouraging greater cooperation between the team and the rink, new special offers will be announced this fall, providing more value for everyone who wants to be on hand for Hockey Time in Party Town.
The new agreement between the team and Waterloo is a blueprint for the future of Black Hawks hockey. Yet greater in significance than any commitment declared in ink, the Hawks’ are making a more concrete gesture regarding the team’s future at Young Arena. The club will invest substantially in improvements to bring new amenities to Party Town.
Check out waterlooblackhawks.com on Thursday for more details.