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Sports Business

NFL Combine, Ice smash records

February 25, 2008
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ice photoIt was a big weekend in Indianapolis. A record 420 credentialed media poured into town to report on the NFL Scouting Combine at the RCA Dome, while a 2007-08 league-high 12,575 fans filed into Conseco Fieldhouse Saturday for the Indiana Ice’s Pack the House Night, pushing the team near the top of the U.S. Hockey League in attendance.

ESPN’s football analyst John Clayton said the media presence at the Combine has grown tremendously over the last decade and shows no signs of abating. Marc Ganis, president of Chicago-based Sportscorp, said the Combine is just one of many unsung events that puts a favorable national spotlight on Indianapolis.

Meanwhile, the Ice’s first of two games at Conseco Fieldhouse attracted the largest crowd this season--by far--in the USHL, a top-tier amateur league for aspiring National Hockey League players.

The Ice were third in the 12-team league in attendance heading into Saturday’s game, but Ice President Michael Schupay said the Fieldhouse game should push them into second. By the time the division-leading Ice play their second game at the Fieldhouse April 5, Schupay thinks the Ice will be pushing the Lincoln, Neb., franchise for the USHL attendance lead.

The Indiana Ice have built a following here since the team was founded in 2004 by Paul Skjodt, who bought the assets of the Indianapolis Ice, a minor-league team that folded that same year. This year, the Ice are averaging more than 3,200 per game, which is only slightly behind attendance averages during the Indianapolis Ice era. The amateur team does attract some of the city’s hardcore hockey fans from the old Ice days, but there’s also a new following, team officials said. The Ice expect average attendance to climb near 4,000 as the team pursues the USHL championship in April.

“We have a big following among young adults ages 19-27 and a big following among families,” Schupay said.
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