MassLive sits down with Cliff Rucker, owner of the Worcester Railers HC.
Posted by MassLive.com Worcester on Thursday, January 26, 2017
Worcester Railers HC owner Cliff Rucker met with MassLive Reporter Scott Croteau on Thursday Morning for a Facebook Live interview. As linked above, we have taken out some of the highlights from the interview. For an easier read, text can be found below.
MassLive.com’s full story of this event can be found here.
Introduction and Recap of Last Week’s Events
Scott Croteau: Good Morning! My name’s Scott Croteau I’m a reporter with Mass Live, and I’m with Worcester Railers owner Cliff Rucker. Cliff, thanks so much for meeting with us!
Cliff Rucker: Thank you Scott, for taking the time to meet with me!
SC: Let’s start off with some exciting news that came last week. Can you let our viewers know what went on with the Worcester Railers?
CR: Sure, so when we got our original approval on February 4th of 2016, it was a conditional approval. It was conditioned upon a couple of caveats, one being a number of season tickets, and another being a number of corporate sponsorships. This week we were happy to announce that when we were back on January 17 to submit our progress, that we were given our final, unanimous, authorization. So they’ve coined the term here “Officially Official.” We are now officially official to begin play this year, which is very exciting.
Rucker Family Looking for an Alternative to Bruins Games
SC: Your love for Worcester Hockey didn’t start with becoming the owner of the Railers. Can you share with us a little bit about this?
CR: We are a hockey family. We love the sport and I used to go to a lot of Bruins games, 30 Bruins games a year before the wife and I had children. As our crew started to grow the cost started to grow exponentially. I remember I scalped a few tickets to a Bruins-Canadiens playoff game about three or four years ago, and for the seven of us, parking, good seats, and dinner it was about $2,000. The Bruins actually lost, I think four to nothing. It was a bad experience overall and we started looking for alternative hockey experiences and somebody mentioned to me about checking out the Worcester Sharks.
We started coming out on a Saturday for a game. For tickets for the seven of us, seats, food, parking, the same thing, it was about $150. I was really smitten with the whole experience. It was family entertainment, it was fun, and we were close up and it was a great experience. When I found out about the Sharks leaving, I was like a lot of people. I was disappointed.
SC: So that love of hockey made you say “we’ve gotta do something here, to fill this void?”
CR: It was a confluence of events. First and foremost, it was the family entertainment experience. But, there was also a Worcester component to that. Worcester has a lot of passion for hockey and it has a lot of pride for the city. When the East Coast AHL teams moved west, three of the four cities got a ECHL replacement team, Worcester didn’t. I was very taken by the out pour and passion from the fans and the community to bring a team here. So that combined with a really good opportunity in the City of Worcester combined for me to make it work.
Ice Center, Bowditch and Dewey Building Acquisition, Railers Tavern, and Retail Space
SC: Let’s talk about the love you’ve shown for the city so far. You have put quite an investment in it already. We can talk about the Ice Center down in the Canal District, how’s the progress going on that?
CR: It’s going great. It’s a construction project so you never want to jinx yourself and say that everything’s going well, but everything is going well and is on schedule. We are scheduled to open in late summer and so far so good.
SC: You’ve purchased the building known as the Bowditch and Dewey building on main street. Are plans for retail what we are looking at here?
CR: If you recall, we are building the Railers Tavern on the corner of Commercial Street. That backs up to a parking lot that is part of the Bowditch and Dewey building. It was really a strategic opportunity to have a piece of property that will allow us to do fan engagement events before the games. We’ll be able to integrate the tavern with the parking lot. In addition to have bands, outdoor events, and pre-game events.
The Bowditch and Dewey Building was part of the acquisition and yes we want to bring that activity out onto main street to activate retail stores. If we can bring the people to the DCU Center, then they can go out after the games to local restaurants and activities, then they’ll hang around.
We’re doing the same thing with the Ice Center. We do not want to just build a hockey rink. We wanted to build a community. We’ve got a 6,000 foot, 2-story restaurant that’s going in there, a physical therapy facility, the Worcester Railers are opening up a large merchandise store there, a big pro shop, and we’re in discussions with a large strength and conditioning gym too.
We’re trying to create these environments where people don’t just come and go. They come and they stay and they spend money and they come back.