THE region’s largest ice hockey team is set to skate into the black for the first time in its 12-year history.
Newcastle Vipers is on target to record an annual profit for the first time since ice hockey was launched at Newcastle Arena by Sir John Hall in 1995.
The team is set to increase its turnover from £650,000 to £1m in the next five years and deliver a profit for 2007.
Last year the club, which was rescued from administration in 2005, cut annual losses from £200,000 to £100,000.
Newcastle Vipers general manager Jaimie Longmuir said: “For the first time it looks as though the business will turn a profit.
“Ice hockey has not been terribly successful in the past in Newcastle and I think a lot of that was because it was always seen as a sports club first and a business second but we’ve really changed that mindset.
“We’ve restructured the company from top to bottom and we’re much more business focused now.”
Mr Longmuir also said the club’s charitable initiative, Community Foundation, had played a major role in raising awareness of the brand among children.
The team expects ticket revenue to climb significantly in the new season which begins in September.
Average attendances at the club’s home games at the Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle have increased by 30% to 2,000 over the last six years. The club aims to increase season ticket sales from 400 in 2006 to 600 this year.
The Vipers will also generate around £65,000 this year through shirt sponsorship from computer parts company Mobilx, which has honoured its deal despite placing itself into administration earlier this year while it fights a European court battle over withheld VAT.
Team on thin ice for many years
THE Vipers business has endured financial turmoil throughout its 12-year history.
In 1995 Sir John Hall bought the Durham Wasps ice hockey team as part of his masterplan for a Newcastle-based sports club and relocated them to the Metro Radio Arena.
Three years later he sold the franchise to ice hockey’s Super League.
In 1999 Finnish ice hockey team Jokerit took over the club but two years later the club went bankrupt.
Local businessman Darryl Illingworth resurrected the business in 2002 only for it to fold three years later.
In 2005 a consortium made up of former Durham Wasps player Paddy O’Connor and Canadian investors Paul Ferone and Rob Wilson took over the club and named it the Vipers.
Earlier this year Mr O’Connor sold his stake in the club to the other two.