Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Attendance Woes in Dallas

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Greg Wyshynski has a good post about the disturbing attendance numbers coming out of Dallas.

On Monday evening, the Dallas Stars hosted the Phoenix Coyotes in their second game of the season at American Airlines Center. The announced attendance — meaning tickets distributed, not fans inside the arena — was 6,306 spectators … or, as you can see, 6,305 spectators and one Cuba Gooding, Jr.

It was the smallest regular-season crowd the Stars have ever had in that building, drawing ridicule from TSN SportsCentre and the expected jabs from the Make It Eight crowd in Canada. Of course, the majority of them ignored the mitigating circumstances: The Texas Rangers playing in the ALCS and an oddly timed 5 p.m. start on a holiday.

That said: The Stars’ attendance has been a concern for the last two seasons. Large sections of empty seats are visible on Center Ice for nearly every weeknight home game, in that so-sparsely-attended-as-to-be-distracting way they are the Coyotes and were for the Atlanta Thrashers (R.I.P.)

I agree with Greg that the circumstances surrounding the Phoenix game were unusual and the tiny crowd does not necessarily mean an awful lot. But as Greg also points out, the Dallas attendance has been slipping for years and the trend is disturbing for what was once the flagship franchise in the southern United States.

The ownership mess – which may, perhaps, might be – close to be being solved, has hurt and so has three straight years out of the playoffs. Still, attendance dropped significantly last year despite the fact that the Stars were in a playoff race.

Greg doesn’t, however, note the biggest red flag in the story. If the Stars distributed 6,306 tickets for the game, the number represents the maximum season ticket base. In other words, the Stars have more than 12,000 tickets to sell for each of the 39 remaining home dates. That’s a tall order even when the Texas Rangers aren’t in the playoffs. When the season ticket base falls to those levels, season tickets become very difficult to sell, simply because there are always good seats – often discounted – available.

It’s particularly hard to sell tickets when the team is barely spending to the salary floor and the team is not likely to be very good this year. Unless new owner(?) Tom Gaglardi adds stability, delivers up a terrific marketing campaign and the Stars are surprisingly competitive, it’s going to be a very long – and unprofitable – year for the Stars.

While this should not really affect any fans in other cities at this stage – and we’re all tired of unseemly gloating from some Canadian fans and media types – it does not signal good things for Bettman’s southern strategy. And that does not signal good things for the CBA negotiations next year. I was more than a little irate last time when Bettman’s failed strategy led to the loss of a season. I don’t think I can stand another labour dispute because of disastrous revenues in a handful of cities.

I don’t think hockey can stand it either.

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Comments

2 Responses to “Attendance Woes in Dallas”
  1. beingbobbyorr says:

    . . . it does not signal good things for Bettman’s southern strategy.

    I don’t think this says anything about Bettman’s “southern strategy”, which was always about getting a national American footprint (dis-ir-regardless of gate revenue) so that the big American TV broadcast contract could be had.

    The fact that the Stars were a hot ticket that did boffo box office for the better part of 15 years 1993-2008(?) suggests that — under normal circumstances — the Dallas market is more than amenable to hockey.

    All of the following could be contributing to the perfect storm of bad news in Dallas . . . .

    . . . . Economy in the tank.

    . . . . Gradually declining W-L record due to lack of a true scorched-earth re-build following 1998-2003 SC contender teams. The Kings went through a similar dry spell 2003-08, but the fans stuck because Dean Lombardi had a clear vision & communicated it. Is Nieuwendyk broadcasting a similar confidence and an unambiguous path forward?

    . . . . Ownership uncertainty.

    . . . . Championship-caliber competition (Mavs, Rangers, perennial Cowboys).

    All of which you sort of touched on individually, Tom, but failed to add up.

  2. Kel says:

    Another thing people in Canada don’t realize is that there are no public holidays in the US. Companies are not required to shut down on government or bank holidays. I went to work and none of my friends had Columbus Day off.

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