In only its second year, the Fayetteville Force hockey team is a big hit with the community.
However, it is not just the excitement that makes the Force important to the Fayetteville area. The team's popularity is also a big hit with the county budget.
They are getting ready for next Thursdays home opener and the Fayetteville Force's management believes they have a playoff contender.
"Bottom line is we have to win hockey games," Force General Manager Kevin MacNaught said. "I think it's the balance of toughness and finesse, that's what will tell the tale at the end of training camp. If we come up with the right chemistry, we will win hockey games."
The team has already sold about 1,000 season tickets, which almost doubles last year's sales. A good portion of that money will go right back into the county.
"Last year it was around $350,000 direct," Crown Coliseum employee Kendall Wall said. "There was a lot of indirect as far as food vendors and part-time food vendors that are in the building, staffing and people with part time jobs. That has a positive impact on the economy. This year we're thinking about $500,000 to $550,000 a year."
If there were any questions as to whether the Crown was a first class hockey facility, they were answered when the Crown played host to a pro hockey exhibition game, and the players gave the facility rave reviews.
"I really enjoy it," Tampa Bay Lightning player Paul Ysebert said. "I've seen some rinks in the minors and nothing compares to this. I'd like to go and take a look at the suites - they look awesome."
"I'd like to come back here," New York Islanders player Eric Brewer said. "I mean it can fit a lot of people. It looks new. Everything is really nice and crisp. This is the kind of stuff that attracts teams."
With the help of the Fayetteville Force and their fans, the coliseum is living up to it's reputation as the area's crown jewel.
The Force will play its first-ever exhibition games this Friday and Saturday. The games start at 7:30 p.m., and tickets will cost $6.
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