"It just kind of handcuffs us," he said, because VIP Seats doesn't collect payment from ticket buyers until the company ships the tickets to the purchasers, something it hasn't done because of the lockout.
VIP Seats took out a line of credit to help the company get through the lockout and made a decision to cut back on NHL season tickets -- dropping about 250 tickets for four underperforming teams -- and to invest more in concerts and NFL and NBA games. Sixty percent of the company's ticket sales last season were for NHL games, a share Giammusso would like to get down to 50 percent this year as a cushion against a lockout.
"We started buying other things a year ago," he said.
With no Sabres games, fans won't drive down to the First Niagara Center and look for a place to park and companies such as Allpro and Pay2Park lose this revenue and their employees lose those paychecks.
Allpro has nearly 2,000 spaces in lots and garages near the arena and typically has 25 attendants and supervisors working on game nights, Serra said.
The company charges between $6 and $15 to park in those lots on a game night. "We would love to see them settle it as soon as possible," he said.
Croce will take a double blow from the lockout. His Pay2Park company has seven lots near First Niagara Center, but Croce also owns a number of bars and restaurants downtown, from D'Arcy McGee's Irish Pub to the Statler City Lobby Bar.
His Buffalo Chophouse, an upscale steak house, often hosts the visiting team the night before they play the Sabres here. Those traveling parties can boast up to 40 people and run up a tab of $3,000 or $4,000 in one evening, Croce said.
"I've got more to lose than anybody in the city," he said.
The visiting players, coaches and support staff usually stay for at least one night at an area hotel, and the Embassy Suites in the Avant Building puts up nearly every NHL team that comes through Buffalo, said Drew, the general manager.
Teams typically take 45 rooms, and the hotel may cater two or three meals according to their strict nutritional requirements, Drew said. Depending on the team, out-of-town fans may take another 20 to 30 rooms, he said.
"It's substantial," Drew said.
The Embassy Suites, which has 182 rooms, has prepared for the lockout but wasn't able to release any of the booked rooms until receiving official notice from the league.
Drew expects to be able to fill many of the unneeded rooms in the fall, but those NHL bookings are welcome in slower January, February and March.
When those out-of-town visits aren't made, those tourism dollars are gone for good.
The rows of cars with Ontario license plates parked in downtown lots, and the clogged traffic on the Peace Bridge before and after games, are signs of how many Canadian fans trek to First Niagara Center.
"That will be a lost opportunity," said Peter Burakowski, communications manager with Visit Buffalo Niagara, who noted the "extra level of vibrancy" downtown before and after Sabres games.
But not everyone feels the sting of a lost Sabres season.
Economists argue that much of the money spent on Sabres games will circulate during the lockout elsewhere in the community. For every bar near the arena that sees its sales plummet, a bar in another part of town might get more business.
Or hockey fans will find something else to entertain themselves, from college basketball to plays.
"They're still going to do something with that money," said George M. Palumbo, a Canisius College economist.
Shea's Performing Arts Center saw season ticket sales soar by about 2,500 from 2003-04 to 2004-05, the year of the lockout, but theater officials attribute most of this increase to a powerhouse lineup of shows that included "The Lion King," "The Producers" and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular.
Yet veterans of the 2004-05 lockout are bracing for a lengthy lockout that could damage the sport they love.
"I'm afraid it will come to the point people will find something else to do with their limited entertainment money," said Local 200's Heidinger. "They may not come back as fast as they did the last time."
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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