Less than two years after their first game, the San Francisco Bulls could be shutting their minor league hockey franchise down within weeks.
That is a worst-case scenario, but the situation has slid closer to that possibility very quickly over the past few weeks, according to team president and coach Pat Curcio.
He said the main problem has been a lopsided deal with the Cow Palace that sends part of the team’s income from ticket sales, parking and concessions to the venue, despite the fact that the Bulls have spent money on multiple upgrades to the facility.
“The scoreboard is not theirs,” Curcio told The San Francisco Examiner. “We will take that away, it’s our asset. But everything else, all the other things we’ve done — now they can make ice, and the TVs, and the internet and the speakers. There’s so much stuff we’ve done that will stay in the Cow Palace. Of course it makes me mad. My goal was to play here for a long time until a new arena was built in The City and we could play in a new arena one day. To say that I’ve lost sleep some nights or many nights is an understatement.”
With losses reportedly at $2 million in the team’s first season and similar numbers looking likely this season, Curcio said about 60 percent of the team’s original investors — the portion from Canada — has pulled out, while the remaining American investors are ready to part ways.
Those losses are mainly due to the Cow Palace, Curcio said.
“I think if you look at any other team in our league, it costs them about $7,000 to $8,000 a night to play with all expenses,” he said. “The Cow Palace, when you take the union cost, how expensive it is to play here with all the expenses, the ice, we’re paying about $31,000 a night to play at the Cow Palace and it’s impossible to make it feasible.”
A new deal is in the works, but it is contingent upon finding a new venue. There is hope to use Oracle Arena on nights when the Warriors are not playing in Oakland, but it would require permission from the Warriors. Members of that front office did not return calls for comment Monday. The Bulls are also searching for a viable venue in Fresno.
Curcio said he has kept his players apprised of the situation as it has developed and that the team has no plans to cancel upcoming home games. He said he is working with the current ownership group to find funds to play out the rest of the season at the Cow Palace should another venue not be found.