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Old December 16th, 2008, 04:12 PM
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Rush down, not out - an interview with Rush GM Polisky
Rush down, not out - an interview with Rush GM Polisky
Posted by Ed Sherman at 12/16/2008 8:00 AM CST on Chicago Business

Sometimes it is dangerous to make assumptions.

Once a year, I took the family to a Chicago Rush game. Each time, the Allstate Arena always was packed with an average ticket price of $22. During every break in the action, which was often, there would be some sort of fan contest sponsored a seemingly endless stream of companies.

As for player salaries, let's just say many fans probably were making more than the players, or at least in the same ballpark. You can't say that at Wrigley Field.

I just took it all in and assumed, Ka-ching, that the Rush were a highly profitable enterprise. Just do the math, I thought.

I shared my assumptions with Rush General Manager Mike Polisky after hearing the news that the Arena Football League will suspend operations in 2009 with the plan to return in 2010. The league (Rush included) has been losing money and needs to restructure the business model.

I asked Mr. Polisky, were all those filled seats and corporate-sponsored activities just a mirage?

"With the success we've had and the fact that we're still struggling speaks to the economic model of the league," Polisky said. "We need to do some things differently."

Specifically, the league needs a better agreement with the players union. Already, there's talk of the salary cap falling from $2 million per team to $1.4 million. It needs to streamline expenses, and it needs to generate more revenues from a national perspective.

The Arena League had a national deal with ESPN that was great from an exposure standpoint, but reportedly didn't generate much revenue.

"There's a lot of work that needs to be done," Polisky said. "The league needs to have a singular voice. We fully expect to be part of the solution and part of the success."

Polisky can only hope the team is back in 2010. The NHL came back after taking a year off, but Arena Football isn't woven into the sports fabric even though it has been around for 22 years.

Polisky said he was heartened Monday at the response from fans who said they will miss not having the Rush around in 2009.

"We're not naive to the potential implications of all of this," Polisky said. "But the Arena Football League fan base is extremely loyal. I'm optimistic that when the Rush returns, the fans will come back and support us."

If the Rush are around in 2010, I'll take the family to a game. However, I won't make the assumption that the team is a cash cow.
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