One of the big concerns about a return of professional hockey to the Utica Memorial Auditorium surrounded the Utica College hockey program and whether the Pioneers would be overlooked or taken for granted with another show in town.

The overall impact of another team at the AUD, and how it effects Utica College remains to be seen. However, The head coach of the men's program is sharing his thoughts and says there have been some immediate positives that have come since the announcement that the Utica Comets would bring the AHL back to Utica.

Gary Heenan, UC's head man, highlighted many of the positives he see while joining WIBX First News with Keeler in the Morning:

  • Heenan says some of the good so far includes, $5 million in renovations to the AUD to include a video screen, a better sound system and new locker and training rooms
  • ''We just out recruited one of our main competitors with a kid [telling him] we'll have a relationship with American Hockey League.''
  • The Pioneers will have chance to observe how pros practice, and learn from them, including coaches, Heenan said.
  • The Comets scheduled around the UC schedule, so the Pioneers will maintain their spot as a Friday and Saturday night entertainment option
  • ''They want us to do good'', as far as ticket sales and concessions, Heenan said.
  • ''Are there two different fan [bases] in this town, I tend to believe there is. To what level I'm not sure.'' But, Heenan said he expects UC's attendance numbers to take a hit, but didn't think it would 'crush' the program. He added that UC would be creative to make their product 'more dollar friendly'. Last year, season tickets for the Pioneers were $50 and the school sold about 2,300 of those, he said.
  • It's one rink we're sharing - if they're in town, we out of town, and vise versa, Heenan said.

Heenan said the biggest remaining question was revenue from the dasher boards that surround the ice. ''We would like to maintain some presence in terms of advertising ownership space. And, that might be more of a negotiating point with the AUD Authority.''

Full Interview from WIBX First News with Keeler in the Morning: