MetroCentre gets $360,000 filling from Dr. T

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-119264623431844.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘The current view of the MetroCentre from inside the future Dental Dimensions Club Lounge.‘);
StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-119264628131844.jpg’, ‘Photo by Stuart R. Wahlin’, ‘Dr. Kris Tumilowicz‘);

“It’s like our VIP country club downtown, so to speak,” explained Jim McIlroy, the MetroCentre’s vice president of corporate partnerships.

When the puck drops at the Nov. 2 Rockford IceHogs home opener, 200 premium seat holders will be able to enjoy the game from the new “Dental Dimensions Club Lounge,” featuring amenities such as a private entrance and restrooms, full bar and wait staff, fireplace and kitchen. Club seat holders also receive free parking.

The three-year, $360,000 club lounge naming rights deal was announced Oct. 10. Dr. Kris Tumilowicz, proprietor of Dental Dimensions, is also a former IceHogs owner.

“I thought that would be kind of a neat way to have people come in and experience, you know, an upgraded, classy way of enjoying a sports venue,” Tumilowicz said.

Brian Luther, assistant general manager of Centre Events, indicated the lounge will also serve as the backstage area for concerts.

McIlroy noted: “This is an extremely exciting moment for all of us. The naming rights on the club lounge is a big deal. …It kinda sets the mark, raises the bar, for everything that we’re doing around here.

“Merging the IceHogs with the MetroCentre; this is a sign, right here, that it was meant to happen,” McIlroy added.

Five years ago this month, Tumilowicz was talked into buying the IceHogs from out-of-towners. “Dr. T’s” ownership culminated in the team’s championship win of the United Hockey League’s coveted Colonial Cup at the end of the 2006-2007 season.

The team was since purchased by the MetroCentre and now competes in the American Hockey League (AHL). Since the IceHogs made the move, the UHL has folded. As part of the move, the IceHogs are now the triple-A farm team of the Chicago Blackhawks, and highlights of the Rockford team’s games will be shown in the Chicago arena to promote our team.

The Blackhawks dropped their affiliation with the Norfolk Admirals to bring their AHL team closer to home. The team, now in Rockford, had the second-best record in the league last season, Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen (R) noted.

“Hopefully, eventually, this rubs off on the Chicago Blackhawks,” Christiansen jested. “Maybe they could throw in a quarterback for the Bears, too.”

All kidding aside, Christiansen said the new club lounge will be instrumental in courting more economic development for the area.

“We can’t get out and entertain these Fortune 500 companies and so forth without some kind of venue like this close by,” Christiansen indicated. “This means a whole lot.”

Rockford Economic Development Director Reid Montgomery agreed, adding, “The MetroCentre is not only going to be a great sports venue, a concert venue, but it’s going to be a complete experience.”

Montgomery was present in Mayor Larry Morrissey’s (I) absence.

According to Centre Events Board of Directors Chairman Rita Pirrello-Epperson, nearly 90 percent of the $2,000-per-year premium seats have already sold.

“The board promised and made a commitment to the community that we were going to increase revenues for the MetroCentre, we were going to share with the community,” Pirrello-Epperson asserted. “This is just one of the ways that we are delivering on that promise that we made.”

McIlroy praised Tumilowicz’s dedication to making the new venture a triumph.

“There’s no question that there’s a lot of people that are just watching, and gonna wait and see what happens to the MetroCentre,” McIlroy said. “And then, there’s a lot of people that are gonna say, ‘Hey, let me help make this successful.’”

The $23 million price tag for MetroCentre renovations and the acquisition of an AHL franchise was the subject of much debate last year. The City of Rockford is on the hook for $912,000 annually until 2028. Winnebago County pledged $9 million over 20 years to the renovation.

No deal has yet been reached for naming rights to the arena itself, however.

“We were thinking, at first, that we were gonna have it nailed down right away,” McIlroy reported. “It’s gonna take just a little bit more time, but it’s gonna happen.”

McIlroy said conversations with three interested parties have been delayed by the rush to complete renovations on time.

During the Oct. 10 press conference, the noise of busy work crews could be heard from within the arena, where it appeared there is still much to be done before opening night.

Centre Events General Manager Corey Pearson promised, “We’re on time with everything we’re shooting for for Nov. 2, so things are moving fast and furious.”

Asked whether the renovation project was staying on budget, Luther responded: “I know there’s been some rumors out there that the project has exceeded budget. Where we’re at right now, we’re completely on track.”

The donation of two Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs) to the MetroCentre by the Rockford Memorial Development Foundation was also announced Oct. 10.

Although most of the interior upgrades should be done by Nov. 2, the overall project is not expected to be completed until the middle of 2008.

“Every time you come in for the next year, you’re gonna see something new,” Pearson pledged.

Fans will get their first taste of the renovated facility and new team when the IceHogs face off against the San Antonio Rampage Nov. 2.

from the Oct. 17-23, 2007, issue

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