Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Oakland Deal with Sharks on Ice

By Eric Simons
Wed, Feb 21, 2007 at 3:28 PM

The Oakland City Council split 4-4 on Tuesday on whether to negotiate with the San Jose Sharks to take over management of the Oakland Ice Center. Mayor Ron Dellums was not around to break the tie, so the issue will go back to the council in two weeks. That left the real soap-opera drama for the daytime.

In a last-minute addendum to their report to the council, the city's community and economic development staff -- acting on a tip from the Sharks' lawyers -- revealed earlier in the day that the president of the Sharks' primary competitor had already had a stint running the rink from May 1997 to April 1999. In fact, the report notes, it was under Thomas Hillgrove's watch that city staff started wondering if his company, Rink Management Services of California, had its books in order.

Although Hillgrove left Rink Management Services of California in 1999 to start his own ice rink management company -- confusingly named Rink Management Services Corporation -- a later independent audit found that the company's record-keeping had been faulty during the time Hillgrove was there. Oakland Ice Center funds, however, had not been "stolen or misused."

The staff report also notes that the city had been concerned at the time about Rink Management Services of California's "overly optimistic net revenue projections," which is somewhat ironic, given the Sharks' own wildly optimistic revenue projections in the proposal being mulled by city leaders.

So, to sum it up, the city's top picks to take over Oakland Ice are a San Jose group that claims it can boost revenues 37 percent, mainly through brutal increases in adult hockey fees, or a Virginia-based group whose president oversaw some sloppy bookkeeping in the past at the center.

Maybe the city should decide this one by pitting the two in an old-school hockey match. You know: no helmets, no pads.

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