RIO RANCHO – Santa Ana Star Center is losing its remaining anchor tenant.
After just two seasons on the Rio Rancho-owned arena’s ice, the New Mexico Mustangs ice hockey team has been granted “inactive status” for the 2012-13 season and its players are now considered “free agents,” according to a news release issued last week by the Frisco, Texas-based North American Hockey League.
The team’s tenure at the 5,400-seat hockey venue has been marked by attendance in the hundreds and lackluster scores that put them bottom of the NAHL’s South Division for the 2011-12 season.
The Star Center saw its other sport anchor, the Thunderbirds basketball team, depart last year after its owner Sam Bregman sold the team to the Cleveland Cavaliers.
It’s not clear if the arrangement is permanent – calls asking for comment from the league and team owner Ken Dennis were not returned – but Star Center general manager Gunnar Fox of Global Spectrum was disappointed.
“Obviously, this is a very unfortunate circumstance,” Fox said this week.
Figures provided by the city show the team generated $77,994 in net operating income for the Star Center in its first season and $84,735 in the 2011-12 season.
While the team normally managed its own sales and promotion efforts, collaboration with Global Spectrum, the city and the Mustangs, for special community events like Winterfest and Taste of Rio Rancho, had boosted attendance to around 1,500. Fox was looking forward to continuing the collaboration.
However, Fox said, the departure of the Mustangs will leave the Star Center with more Friday and Saturday nights available.
“We will aggressively pursue a diverse range of entertainment to fill the void left by the Mustangs,” Fox said.
The New Mexico Stars indoor football team, which played seven games at the Star Center this year, has its last game June 9 and is expected to return next year, Fox said.
The Mustangs became the Star Center’s sports team anchor in the fall of 2010, replacing the New Mexico Scorpions ice hockey team, who left the venue in 2009 and later disbanded.
— This article appeared on page C1 of the Albuquerque Journal