Milwaukee Talks: Admirals owner Harris Turer
The Milwaukee Admirals have been in town longer that the Brewers have. It may be only by a few months, but their history is a long one indeed, especially considering that minor league sports franchises come and go in the blink of an eye nowadays.
First known as the Milwaukee Wings in 1970, they soon would change their name to the Admirals and have been an institution ever since. After playing as an independent team for their first four seasons, they joined the United States Hockey League (USHL) in 1973.
From 1977-2001 they skated in the International Hockey League (IHL) and joined the American Hockey League (AHL) after the IHL folded.
One of the reasons the Admirals were invited to join the AHL was because of the longtime steady ownership of Jane and Lloyd Pettit since 1976. Although the couple divorced in 1998, Mrs. Pettit continued to own the Admirals franchise until her death, ironically during the team's first season in the AHL.
For four years the Admirals were run by Mrs. Pettit's trust, but that was hardly a permanent working solution. A new owner was needed to bring in fresh capital and almost just as important, fresh ideas.
In stepped Harris Turer, the grandson of Master Lock founder Harry Soref. Turer, the father to a youth hockey player and affirmed Admirals fan, stepped up and bought the team in 2005.
In 2006 he sat down with OnMilwaukee.com for his first "Milwaukee Talks" feature. Six years later, we caught up with him again at the Admirals downtown offices.
OnMilwaukee.com: What have you learned about owning a professional sports organization since the last time we sat down with you in 2006?
Harris Turer: You learn along the way. When I bought the team, people said 'what's your business plan?' Well, we have a framework; a mission statement of what we want to be and that was a true, minor league team. I thought we had to do that because we are in a major league town. I never wanted to pass the Admirals off as NHL hockey. We're not, and I don't want to fool anybody. But, what that also allowed us to do is to create that minor league fun, that minor league atmosphere that I think people enjoy and appreciate. That allows you to create your niche. Because you are going against people's attention when it comes to the Packers and the Bucks and the Brewers and major college sports out in Madison or Marquette or UWM. There are so many things that can grab your attention. So we created that part.
OMC: So what has worked and what hasn't?
HT: One of the things we think we have learned is, not really based in scientific data but something we found out, is we don't give out free tickets. I used to get told all the time that if we give away free tickets people will have a good time and want to come again. So in the beginning we did quite a bit of that. But all I learned from that is that people then won't come unless they've been given a free ticket. It really became a matter of 'unless I'm getting a free ticket than I'm not interested.' So what we have done is created a valuable product that people are willing to pay for at a family-friendly price. When you go out and spend your discretionary income, what are you going to spend it on? We think we have created something that has some value and is affordable for our fans.
OMC: Is this a full-time job for you?
HT: Yes. I'm here every day, five days a week in terms of being in the office. I'm at every game I can possibly be at, unless I'm at one of my kids' hockey games or something like that. But yes, I'm here 9-to-5 every day.
OMC: You are also a part-owner of the Brewers. It's been quite a few months for the team, hasn't it?
HT: First of all, the run that the team made was so special. Everywhere you went the town was so excited about it. Obviously we ran into a bit of a buzz saw in the Cardinals. The pitching disappointed a lot of people because all of a sudden the starting pitching that got you there, for the most part, started to fall apart a little bit, at least half of that four-man rotation anyway. What's going on with the makeup of the team is that Doug (Melvin) is clearly doing the right thing. He had to get a bat. We talked about it at a meeting back in November that we have to get a bat behind Braunie. We're probably losing Prince (Fielder) there and we can't put a rookie there or no one is going to pitch to him. So then he went out and got (Aramis) Ramirez.
OMC: What was your reaction to the news about Ryan Braun's failed drug test?
HT: Obviously none of us knows the full story yet. The one thing that seems clear to me is that he and his people are adamant that he's done nothing wrong. What caused the positive outcome we don't know? I really think that if Ryan had really done something wrong I don't think he would be so adamant the other way. And I know that you point to other players like (Roger) Clemens or (Rafael) Palmeiro, or any of those other players that went in front of Congress and said they didn't do anything, but I don't think Ryan is that kind of guy. He's a really smart guy, and there is something here that we'll all find out about it because he seems really anxious to tell everybody about it.
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