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          The NHL's "national vision" to build 100 NHL-licensed
     rinks open to the public along with N.Y.-based development
     partner Mentmore Holdings "has been slow to develop,"
     according to Becky Yerak of the DETROIT NEWS, who reported
     that the first facility, NHL Skate in Birch Run, MI, has
     drawn "a fraction of the visitors it forecast and is already
     under new ownership -- its lender -- as it works to resolve
     financial troubles."  Signature Sports & Entertainment's
     Jeffrey Kerr, whose company "developed and ran" the
     property, said the "ice business" wasn't "meeting our
     investment threshold."  Kerr: "I thought we'd have twice the
     number of participants we did."  Jim Cain, whose company was
     "recently hired by lender-owner Nations Credit to run NHL
     Skate in Birch Run," said that the facility "is a year or so
     away from making money."  Sports marketer Bob Hope, who
     helped the NHL and Mentmore study certain U.S. cities'
     "viability" for rinks, said, "My sense is that the economics
     weren't what they thought."  The NHL is "still optimistic"
     about "its licensing potential" and Mentmore's "development
     efforts."  NHL VP/Business Development Bryant McBride: "We'd
     like to see more open, but quality is more important than
     quantity.  We're early in the first period.  These are built
     to last."  A second NHL Skate opened in NH in December and a
     third one will open this fall in CT (DETROIT NEWS, 10/3).   
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