Murry Gunty’s Black Bear Sports Group keeps gobbling up hockey rinks

Crain’s Chicago Business
April 09, 2018

An East Coast investor that has been buying up skating rinks in the Chicago area has cut its fourth deal here, buying out the longtime owners of a facility in southwest suburban Crestwood.

Black Bear Sports Group said it has taken over the Southwest Ice Arena from the DiCristina family, which has owned the property since 1975. Chevy Chase, Md.-based Black Bear has been investing heavily in hockey rinks here, buying the Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge in 2016 and last year acquiring American Heartland Ice Arena in Lincolnwood and Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn.

With the rising popularity of youth hockey, skating rinks look like a growth sector. For the 2016-17 season, 31,574 Illinois players were registered with USA Hockey, the sport’s governing body, up from about 24,000 before the Blackhawks won the 2010 Stanley Cup.

But hockey rinks are expensive to operate, and several in the Chicago area have run into financial trouble the past several years. Black Bear’s predecessor, Blackstreet Capital Holdings, bought Seven Bridges out of foreclosure.

Black Bear often seeks out rinks that need additional investment, whether it involves overhauling refrigeration equipment or fixing up locker rooms. Owners of many privately held older rinks have either been unable or unwilling to spend the money needed to maintain the properties, creating an opportunity for an investor that can and will.

At Southwest, built in 1972, Black Bear plans to invest in new mechanical equipment and make some cosmetic improvements, ultimately spending $1 million over time, said founder and CEO Murry Gunty.

“This fits with our model of buying older facilities that need some money to bring them up to modern standards," said Gunty, a former investment banker and private-equity executive who founded Black Bear in 2015.

He declined to say how much Black Bear paid for the arena at 5505 127th St., just west of the intersection of Interstate 294 and South Cicero Avenue. The property includes a full-sized hockey rink and a studio rink.

“Due to the age of (Southwest Ice Arena) I believe this was the best decision for the rink moving forward, knowing that major capital improvements will be addressed as they are needed," rink owner Frank DiCristina wrote on the arena’s Facebook page. “Black Bear will embark on capital improvement projects which will extend the life of SIA for years to come."

DiCristina will join Black Bear as a vice president in charge of the firm’s four Chicago-area rinks. DiCristina, who did not return a call, has worked in the rink business for more than three decades.

“One of the most attractive parts of the deal is we get Frank," Gunty said.

Black Bear also aims to reach a long-term ice rental agreement with the St. Jude Knights, the youth hockey organization based at Southwest, he said.

Gunty’s entry into the rink business a few years ago was serendipitous. His private-equity firm, Blackstreet Capital, which specializes in buying and fixing distressed companies, was simply being opportunistic when it decided to pursue the opportunity to buy Seven Bridges out of foreclosure.

“We didn’t approach it as a plan to build a hockey business," Gunty said. “We just thought we found a great deal."

But Gunty, who played hockey as a boy and coaches his sons, decided that he could build something bigger. The firm owns nine rinks now, including five in New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Maryland, and Gunty said he aims to buy more.

But it has been a risky business, especially for groups that have built expensive new rinks in the past decade or so. Unable to cover their high debt costs, the Leafs Ice Center in West Dundee and International Ice Centre in Romeoville both wound up in foreclosure. The Romeoville property, which has three sheets of ice, was sold in 2011 for $3.7 million after being hit with an $18 million foreclosure suit.

“A brand-new facility is not able to charge any more than a dumpy old facility," Gunty said. “The rink business is much like the luxury hotel business—you don’t want to be the first owner. You want to be the second or third owner."

Murry Gunty’s Black Bear Sports Group Acquires Tenth Ice Arena

Business Wire
August 29, 2018

Black Bear Sports Group, Inc. (“BBSG” or the “Company”) has acquired the Milford Ice Pavilion in Milford, CT (the “Arena”). The Arena houses one NHL-size ice sheet and is home to the Southern Connecticut Stars Youth Hockey Association and various local high schools. BBSG was founded by Murry Gunty in 2015.

“We’re thrilled to expand our operations into the strong hockey and skating communities of southern Connecticut,” said Murry Gunty, CEO of BBSG. “We look forward to continuing the strong partnerships in place with the local users in Milford.”

The Arena is the tenth ice rink purchased by BBSG along with its three Junior Hockey teams. Other ice rink holdings include Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge, IL; American Heartland Ice Arena in Lincolnwood, IL; Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL; Southwest Ice Arena in Crestwood, IL; Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton, MD; Ice World in Abingdon, MD; Ice Land Skating Center in Hamilton Township, NJ; Jersey Shore Ice Arena in Wall Township, NJ; and Printscape Arena at Southpointe in Canonsburg, PA.

About Black Bear Sports Group, Inc.

Black Bear Sports Group, Inc. is a privately held company formed by Murry Gunty in 2015 that seeks investments in sports and entertainment facilities, teams and youth sports events. Our arenas are clean and professionally managed, and offer world-class recreational offerings. We focus on ice arenas in metropolitan areas with compelling demographics, markets with a National Hockey League club presence and arenas with existing youth hockey clubs. We have the ability to acquire healthy and stable arenas, but also to turn around under-managed or under-performing facilities. Black Bear currently owns and operates ten arenas across the United States with a total of 18 sheets of indoor ice, two indoor turf fields, two youth hockey clubs and three junior hockey franchises in the USHL, NAHL and EHL.

Contacts
Black Bear Sports Group, Inc.
Murry Gunty, 240-223-1333

Total Domination: Black Bear Sports Group purchases fourth area ice rink

Business Wire
April 9, 2018

Black Bear Sports Group Inc. has acquired Southwest Ice Arena in Crestwood.

The Arena houses one NHL-size ice sheet, one smaller practice rink and the Pal’s Corner Cafe. Black Bear also said the seller, Frank DiCristina, will join its operations team. He has joined the company as vice president of operations and will oversee all four BBSG ice rinks in the Chicago area.

“We’re thrilled to be investing in the strong hockey and skating community of southwest Chicago,” said Murry Gunty, CEO of BBSG. “The addition of Mr. DiCristina to our team is extremely valuable. He brings tremendous experience and knowledge backed by his family’s 43-year ownership of the Arena.”

“I am excited to be a part of the BBSG team and will use my 30+ years of ice rink management experience to oversee the Chicago arenas,” DiCristina said.

The Arena is the ninth ice rink purchased by BBSG. Other ice rink holdings include Seven Bridges Ice Arena in Woodridge, American Heartland Ice Arena in Lincolnwood, Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, Piney Orchard Ice Arena in Odenton, Maryland; Ice World in Abingdon, Maryland; Ice Land Skating Center in Hamilton Township, New Jersey; Jersey Shore Ice Arena in Wall Township, New Jersey and Printscape Arena at Southpointe in Canonsburg, Pennsylvania.

Black Bear Sports Group Inc. is a privately held company formed by Murry Gunty in 2015 that seeks investments in sports and entertainment facilities and youth sports events.

Murry Gunty’s Black Bear Sports Group buys into Youngstown Phantoms

By Tom Williams
The Vindicator
June 9, 2018

YOUNGSTOWN

One day after the team’s first alumnus raised the Stanley Cup in celebration, the Youngstown Phantoms have new co-owners.

After overseeing the Phantoms for the past four USHL seasons, Troy and Aafke Loney announced on Friday that they have sold their half of the franchise. Running the team day-to-day will be Keith Primeau, who, like Troy Loney, played 15 seasons in the NHL.

Primeau is the vice chairman of Black Bear Sports Group, Inc., which purchased the Loneys’ stake in the nine-year-old franchise. Bruce Zoldan, Phantoms Fireworks CEO, owns the other half of the team.

Black Bear is a Maryland-based sports and entertainment company that owns and operates ice arenas, junior hockey franchises and youth sports events. Its CEO, Murry Gunty, is the majority owner of SuperSeries AAA, a leading organizer or AAA youth hockey tournaments and tournament travel teams.

“I am excited to join the Phantoms and look forward to building on the team’s successes from last season,” Primeau said. “Having had two of my boys play in the USHL, I have a strong appreciation for just how competitive the league is and how it prepares players for NCAA and pro hockey.”

The announcement comes a day after the Washington Capitals won the Stanley Cup. Nathan Walker, a Phantom for four months in 2013, was on the Capitals roster and was given the Stanley Cup to raise over his head during the postgame on-ice celebration.

“We will always cherish the relationships we have built here in Youngstown, both personal and business,” said the Loneys, adding that they “are confident Youngstown will welcome the new ownership team just as we were welcomed into this awesome city.”

Zoldan created the Youngstown Phantoms in 2009 after folding the Mahoning Valley Phantoms of the North American Hockey League. The team became the primary sports tenant of the then-Chevrolet Centre (now Covelli Centre). The arena’s first two sports tenants — the Youngstown SteelHounds of the Central Hockey League and the Mahoning Valley Thunder of af2 — closed up shop in 2008 and 2009, respectively.

“We are thrilled to be part of the USHL family and to partner with Bruce Zoldan,” Gunty said. “No league sends more players to college hockey than the USHL and that will continue to be our top priority in Youngstown.”

In March 2014, Zoldan announced that the Loneys had purchased half of his franchise and would take over running the day-to-day operations of the junior hockey league team.

In their four seasons as co-owners, the Phantoms made the Clark Cup Playoffs three time. In the 2014-15 season, the Phantoms won the Anderson Cup for producing the best record in the regular season.

In 2015, Phantoms head coach Anthony Noreen left for the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears. The Loneys replaced him with John Wroblewski who coached for one season, then left for the U.S. National Development Program.

Jason Koehler, the Phantoms’ assistant general manager, was promoted to GM when Noreen left.

In June 2016, Brad Patterson, a Phantoms assistant coach since 2010, replaced Wroblewski as head coach.

Last month, the Phantoms won the Eastern Conference and qualified for the Clark Cup Final for the first time. The Phantoms lost to the Fargo Force, 3-1.

“Our new partners bring experience and expertise to this organization that we expect will have a positive impact on the team and the community,” Zoldan said.

Murry Gunty and Printscape Imaging and Graphics Overhaul the Arena at Southpointe

Murry Gunty

March 9, 2018 – Murry Gunty and Printscape Imaging and Graphics are going all out to make sure the renovated Printscape Arena at Southpointe has a revitalized aesthetic for the family-focused facility.

Working with Murry and Black Bear Sports Group, Inc., Printscape was given a unique opportunity that they we’re not entirely familiar with. Printscape Imaging and Graphics in Pittsburgh typically outputs graphics and signage for other brands, but this new opportunity required massive prints of the shop’s own logo. Printscape obtained naming rights to the local ice and sports arena and used a plethora of their wide-format printers to create exterior and interior signage that would rebrand the entire facility with its new aesthetic. The installation took two weeks and included 3500 square feet of printed signage.  

Black Bear Sports Group and Affiliate Acquires Eighth Ice Arena

February 25, 2018 – “We’re very excited to be investing in another vibrant New Jersey hockey community,” BBSG CEO Murry Gunty said.  Black Bear Sports Group (BBSG), Inc. has acquired substantially all of the assets of the Jersey Shore Arena in Wall Township, NJ. The Arena houses three sheets of ice and serves youth hockey and other ice sports participants in Monmouth County. In addition, the Arena features a pro shop, laser tag, the Penalty Box Café, and a high performance training gym utilized by youth and high school hockey clubs.  Murry Gunty expressed “we are proud to be the home to over 15 local high school hockey programs and the Jersey Shore Wildcats youth hockey club. We look forward to modernizing the facility to provide our customers with a first-class ice rink in this proud hockey state.”

Since 2015, while also being CEO and founder of Blackstreet Capital Holdings, LLC, Gunty has been seeking investments in sports and entertainment facilities and youth sports events.  “Our arenas are clean and professionally managed, and offer world class recreational offerings. We focus on: ice arenas in metropolitan areas with compelling demographics; markets with a National Hockey League club presence; and arenas with an existing Tier I or Tier II youth hockey presence,” says Gunty.  BBSG currently owns and operates eight arenas across the United States with a total of 15 sheets of indoor ice and two indoor turf fields.

 

 

Printscape Signs Multi-Year Naming Rights Agreement

Nov. 2,2017 – Murry Gunty of Blackstreet Capital and Black Bear Sports Group, Inc. along with its operating partner Ice Rink Performance Group have announced a multi-year naming rights agreement to change the Iceoplex facility name to Printscape Arena at Southpointe. “I appreciate Printscape’s confidence in our facility and our operating team. We are also pleased to welcome Bubba Snider and his restaurant Bubba’s Gourmet Burghers and Beer. They will be a great asset to all of our constituents,” said Black Bear Founder and CEO Murry Gunty.

Printscape Imaging and Graphics owner John Dziak stated, “we are proud to partner with such a positive community asset. The Printscape Arena at Southpointe is all about providing the citizens of the South Hills a multitude of participatory sports programming as well as affordable family entertainment that promotes physical activity and healthy lifestyles without burdening taxpayers.”  Bubba’s Gourmet Burghers and Beer is owned and operated by local radio personality Bubba Snider who said,  “we are excited about the Printscape Arena at Southpointe location and plan to bring simply the best Burgher you have ever eaten to Southpointe. All of our food is 100% fresh and never frozen.”

The facility has also added new amenities and program offerings including the Southpointe Fitness Center, the Southpointe Chamber of Commerce Network Center and First Strides, a physical education  program for schools that provides an introduction to hockey including free use of head-to-toe hockey gear for all participants

 

Southpoint’s former Iceoplex building renamed, plans for new restaurant announced

 

Nov. 3, 2017 – With the help of Murry Gunty from Blackstreet Capital, Southpointe’s legacy sports complex has been officially renamed Printscape Arena at Southpointe.  

The 22-year-old arena will operate 365 days a year and continue to provide world-class facilities for hockey teams of all ages, as well as soccer, volleyball, lacrosse and other sports.

Homegrown businesses took advantage to associate with such a “unique opportunity.”  Printscape Imaging and Graphics, a local print shop that specialized in branding solutions for companies, signed a multi-year agreement for the rights to the name.  Co-owners Bubba Snider and U.S. Navy retiree Ed Kelly will be opening Bubba’s Gourmet Burgers, another locally owned and sourced business.

Murry Gunty and Blackstreet Capital own multiple arenas around the country and collectively draw 4 million and 5 million a year.

Western Capital Resources, Inc. Announces Sale of AlphaGraphics, Inc.

Oct. 3, 2017 – Western Capital Resources entered into a Purchase and Sale Agreement with MBE on October 3, 2017, pursuant to which the Company agreed to sell all of the capital stock in AlphaGraphics, the sole business comprising the Company’s franchise segment, for an aggregate purchase price of $61,500,000 (subject to adjustment), less approximately $1,185,600 in payments to AlphaGraphics to satisfy obligations to its other security holders.

AlphaGraphics has been owned or controlled by Blackstreet Capital Partners II, LLC (“Blackstreet” or “Blackstreet Capital”) and its affiliates since January 2012, when Blackstreet purchased AlphaGraphics out of a U.K. bankruptcy sale, and later contributed AlphaGraphics to the Company.  Under Blackstreet’s control, AlphaGraphics was able to stabilize and grow its franchise base as well as substantially grow its earnings.  Blackstreet is a private investment firm and registered investment adviser based in Chevy Chase, MD, and founded by Murry Gunty.  “We have enjoyed our relationship with AlphaGraphics and its franchisees over the years,” said Murry Gunty, Blackstreet founder and CEO.  “We believe they are in very capable hands with MBE, which is positioned to do great things with the business going forward.”

Western Capital Resources, Inc. (WCE) is a publicly traded company based in Omaha, Nebraska.  They are focused on growing through the acquisition of established lower middle-market businesses with up to $100 million in sales.  WCE are industry agnostic, and target leaders in niche industries or geographies, as well as opportunistic purchases of businesses that we believe can be improved operationally.  They have a particular interest in situations involving businesses facing succession dilemmas, corporate divestitures, and businesses in out-of-favor industries.  Our strategy is to build a diversified portfolio of businesses that generate strong operating cash flow.

Blackstreet Capital Holdings and Affiliates Purchase Fifth and Sixth Ice Arenas

BCH affiliate purchases two ice rinks in Chicago suburbs

August 15, 2017 – Led by President Murry Gunty, Piney Ice Holdings, Inc., (“Piney”) an affiliate of Blackstreet Capital Holdings, LLC (“BCH”) and Ice Rink Holdings, LLC, has acquired the American Heartland Arena in Lincolnwood, IL, and Center Ice of DuPage in Glen Ellyn, IL.  Managed by Ice Rink Performance Group, the arenas will provide the suburbs of Chicago three high performance facilities for recreation, world-class training, and affordable family entertainment.  “Chicago is passionate about ice hockey and figure skating and we’re thrilled to be able to provide quality rinks and services to the community,” said Gunty.

With Piney already operating six arenas throughout the United States it looks to invest in properties they can transition into high quality entertainment and youth sports facilities.  BCH works to find solutions for a range of middle market businesses or corporate orphans that are struggling or seeking to restructure.  “We are focused on helping the underlying business stabilize and grow over the long-term,” said Gunty.