Not only were the San Francisco Bulls one of just under a handful of expansion teams to join the ECHL (formerly an acronym for the East Coast Hockey League), they were also one of the few start-ups to successfully launch in 2012. As the 2013-2014 season gets under way, this past summer we had a few interviews with President, General Manager and Head Coach Pat Curcio to find out his thoughts on the Bulls first season and to look ahead to their sophomore season.
“For the most part everything has been positive” reports Curcio. “Our revenues were in the top percentile, top 5, top 6 in the whole league, but our expenditures were probably the highest. It’s a balance we’re trying to bow here in San Francisco being such an expensive city. I think we’re going to have a better handle on our expenses this year going forward. But from a league perspective as far as they’re concerned – they look at us and call it a big success. We’re number one in merchandise sale. Our marketing campaign ‘Act Like You Got A Pair’ is up for an award at this year’s annual league meeting. So I think from a league perspective it was a success.”
Living and working in San Francisco is indeed expensive. How expensive? Curcio explained: “We paid through the roof last year. Our budget was supposed to be about $300,000 for game day operations. It was $900,000 this year. So that’s $600,000 we need to cut off next year. We need the Cow Palace’s support.”
And for those of you who are unfamiliar with the Bulls’ home – The Cow Palace – it is a local, unofficial historic building built in 1941. And for all the nostalgia lining the halls and corridors of the Cow Palace, it needed help. Before the season started Curcio explained what went into making the building hockey-ready. ”That doesn’t include the million and a half we put into this building for the sound system, the pipes, the ice floor, different repairs all over the building – from cable to internet, to carpets, to renovations and the scoreboard to bring this arena up to par.”
140,000 fans and hundreds of season ticket holders later you can be sure the Bulls are looking towards the future. But it’s not without its challenges.
“We’re struggling with corporate partnerships right now. I think the America’s Cup really hurt us. A lot of the money that a lot of people would have had access to they’re spending on this two week thing which will be gone and never come back again. We can do a lot and make every (corporate) partnership unique.”
The Bulls are not without support. As with almost anyone who comes in contact with this organization, there’s an immediate desire to help.
“They (the Cow Palace) wants us here, the city wants us here, the city has (plans for) two new buildings but we’re going to need support from everyone to survive the next 3-4 years to get into a new building. The 49ers are leaving and basically when the Giants are done there’s nothing going on here anymore.”
The Golden State Warriors are planning a new waterfront arena and the Lennar corporation plans to possibly build a new rink on the site of Candlestick Park after the 49ers leave, but between then and now the Cow Palace is home for the Bulls.
“We need the Cow Palace to keep us here – this is our home. We’d love it to be viable for us. If we can get the same revenues as last year and the costs are manageable then this could be our home forever.”