By Debbie Juniewicz
Dayton Daily News
FAIRBORN, Ohio – The Dayton Bombers know what they need to offer — more wins, more value, more fun.
“The economy has had a significant impact on our business not just in ticket sales, but in terms of sponsorship and group sales,” said Costa Papista, the minor-league hockey team’s owner. “That means we have to be more creative in what we do and provide more value for our fans, our sponsors and our corporate business partners.”
The Bombers drop the puck on their 18th season on Saturday, facing off against the defending Kelly Cup champion Cincinnati Cyclones at 7:30 p.m. at the Nutter Center. In terms of ECHL longevity, Dayton is second only to Johnstown (Pa.), the only team left from the league’s inception 21 years ago.
“We feel like we have a good product and we offer a unique entertainment event,” Papista said. “It’s an affordable diversion in tough economic times.”
Papista describes current season-ticket numbers as “relatively flat” but anticipates increased sales. But cost — with tickets ranging from $10 for children to $30 on the glass — is not the only factor.
“Winning games helps, too, there’s no question,” Papista said. “And we weren’t satisfied with last season. That’s why we only have four players returning on a 20-man roster.”
After winning the North Division and advancing to the Kelly Cup Finals in 2007, the Bombers squeaked into the playoffs with a fifth-place finish (29-31-12) in the division and were swept by Johnstown in the first round.
“This is a different team,” Papista said. “These guys play with a lot of emotion and a lot of intensity. And I think people can see hard work and they appreciate it.”
Head coach Bill McDonald describes his players as young, character guys with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.
“The wins are hard to come by, we’re in a real tough division,” McDonald said. “But if they work in the systems, we can build that work ethic into wins.”
As in years past, the Bombers will make use of their home away from home in Troy. Six games are scheduled for Hobart Arena.
And 30 games will be on WONE-AM (980) with Tom Michaels calling the action and Dayton Hockey Hall of Famer Guy Trottier handling the color.
“I think radio is going to be great for us,” Papista said, “because it’s one more way to generate exposure and grow our brand.”