If you build it, will they come?
Burton’s plan involves all sorts of additional revenue sources, including sponsorships and even an Internet TV option. He said that he is in negotiations to lock in a seven-figure sponsorship.
But Allan Harvie, who built the IceZone in the 1990s and ran the minor league hockey team the Richmond Renegades until it folded last year, said that sponsors are a fickle bunch.
“We lost a lot of sponsors,” he said. “Some are out of business, and some just aren’t there.”
“And now you have a baseball team, and everyone is excited about that. It’s America’s pastime rather than a dream some individual has.”
Burton envisions a profitable division called SportsQuest TV, which would let parents or fans watch programming over the Internet.
Harvie said that he tried an Internet TV station for the Renegades and that the most viewers they ever had at once was 170.
When asked about those specific challenges, Burton said that sponsorships are indeed a difficult pitch but that he has commitments of more than $1 million from big-time companies. He said he could not share what those companies are because they want to release it on their own terms with a news conference.
“I believe Allan’s statement is correct,” Burton said. “In today’s world, sponsorship dollars are a valuable commodity. … For us to be able to achieve that level of sponsorship speaks highly of us.”
As for the broadcasting concept, Burton explains: “Imagine it as a replacement to families to trying to tape children’s sports. You could alert Grandma and Grandpa to tune in, and they can see their grandchild jumping off the starting blocks or the coach sitting with one of the players.”
Burton said he imagines charging $5 a month for the SportsQuest TV channel. He said he’s in talks with three companies who would provide the technology.
Harvie said he’d very much like to see Burton succeed, but he’s worried about the scope of the project. He said the “if you build it, they will come” approach is incredibly risky.
“If you’re a smart guy … then you build it slowly, and build it steady.”
Aaron Kremer is the BizSense editor. Reporters Al Harris, Drew Jackson and Kaitlin Mayhew contributed to this report. Please send news tips to Editor@richmondbizsense.com.