Frank Cristiano had no idea when he bought a building near the Utica Memorial Auditorium that the AHL was bringing hockey back to Utica...right at the Aud.
"It was like hitting the lottery. Sometimes you just gotta be lucky, and that's what happened to us," says Cristiano, whose bakery and distribution center morphed into a sports bar and deli once he learned that the Utica Comets Hockey Team was bringing up to 4,000 fans to 38 home games per season.
According to Utica economic development officials, others are making much more deliberate efforts to cash in on AHL hockey in Utica
"We've already seen the increased interest since the announcement of the Comets coming to Utica for a number of properties that previously there hadn't been a whole lot of interest in," says Utica Urban & Economic Development Commissioner Brian Thomas.
Utica Mayor Robert Palmieri also sees the Comets' potential as an economic driver and morale booster.
"The negativity that's been resonating for a lot of years out there is not 100 percent gone, but certainly at this point there's a lot more optimism," says Palmieri.
"There's a good feeling, there's that buzz in the air," Palmieri said. "Frank Du Ross and Rob Esche quite frankly recognize it, (they) see it. I think tonight we're sold out. I think what you're seeing at this point is the rebirth of Utica, New York, right before our eyes".