Tuesday, March 17, 2009

A few words about the Flames' departure

This is adapted from something I wrote over on the CalgaryPuck's QC Flames hockey forum. Its some of my thoughts as to why we probably won't have an AHL hockey team next year.


I think the Flames' problems all go back to last year. The rollout of the team wasn't great, causing early attendance to be lower than it should have. Some of the QC's hardcore hockey fans were alienated by the name change. Then the team started losing constantly, so it was hard to get new people to go to the games. When fans did go, they sat in an empty arena. No matter how exciting the game is, or how excited and enthusiastic the crowd is, if you're sitting there with 7,000 empty seats, it doesn't have a great atmosphere. Casual fans were turned off by this, increasing problems. It really became a vicious cycle in my opinion. I don't know what started it, or how to keep it from happening again if we get a new team.

Everyone (including me) likes to point out the River Bandits' awesome attendance turnaround. They had basically the opposite cycle. People were excited about lower ticket prices and returning to the River Bandits name, so early attendance was good. The crowds were excited and enthusiastic, so people had a good time regardless of the result on the field. The owners added more promotions, bringing in even more people, causing games to be packed and even more exciting. The year's attendance increased by something like 60%, despite the flooding issues.

One of the differences in these 2 scenarios is that the River Bandits have an incentive to fill the seats, even at low prices, because they get the concession and souvenir revenue. As far as I know, the Flames get nothing from concession sales, so having 8,000 fans paying $5 isn't really any better on paper than 4,000 fans paying $10. However, sitting in an arena with 8,000 people is a hell of a lot more fun than one with 4,000... or 2,000.

So I guess my point is that big crowds cause big crowds. The trouble is getting the good cycle going rather than the downward spiral.

Also, happy St. Patrick's Day.

21 Comments:

At 3/17/2009 8:06 AM, Blogger C. said...

The ownership blundered, that's for certain.

Although I'm wondering how much of the problems also came from the way the NHL Flames treated the affiliate.

Then again, considering the word came that Calgary was going to try to move the team to BC prior to the start of this season, it really wasn't fair to the team or the fan base they were TRYING to build.

 
At 3/17/2009 8:18 AM, Blogger pioneer98 said...

Almost nothing went right with the Flames, from the economy, Calgary's antics, wins/losses, front office problems, etc. Somehow, the front office managed to alienate several sponsors.

I'd also like to point out that the perception that the Flames or i wireless Center were trying to gouge people is wrong. Somehow this idea spread, but it was off-base. The Flames had the cheapest tickets in the AHL, and then had several $10/$5 ticket nights on top of that. Concessions at the 'i' were also right at the bottom of the league, and are very comparable to the River Bandits' prices, which no one seems to complain about (or at least nowhere near as loudly).

 
At 3/17/2009 2:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Bandits are a great model, but they also had the power of nostalgia at their back. The Flames were starting from scratch, and they just seemed unable to build on the good starting momentum they had briefly.

Hockey can be a tough sport to get people out to. Baseball has history, the warm summer outdoor nights, and in our case, even the riverfront to boot. On top of all that, the Bandits have excellent management that took full advantage of every opportunity they get to work with the community and continue building a fan base. The Flames did a lot in the community too, but the Bandits seems to be damn near everywhere.

The Bandits have found ways to get people to games regardless of baseball fandom. This is clearly the secret to their success.

For the Flames, they couldn't find the right mix of entertainment to keep the casual observer interested enough. To fill 8K worth of seats, ya gotta be able to nail that.

 
At 3/18/2009 1:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might consider that there may not be enough of a fan base for hockey like there is for baseball. Losing the Flames may just mean that there arent enough hockey fans in the QC not that we arent a big enough area to support a major team.

 
At 3/18/2009 6:52 AM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

I could see that if it wasn't for the Mallards' glory years of averaging over 8,000 fans per game. Unless all those people happened to move away or stop liking hockey, the QC has enough people who enjoy hockey.

I would think that the future of hockey is only brighter, because now kids have junior hockey and the QC Sports Center, etc. When I was a kid there weren't really hockey options, so I didn't necessarily grow up as a hockey fan.

 
At 3/18/2009 7:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The difference could be that Moline doesn't subsidize things so they aren't forced to raise taxes. Davenport has wasted a bundle keeping the stadium alive downtown. Davenport has a history of spewing out cash to every piker that comes to town.

 
At 3/18/2009 7:29 AM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

Yes, I can't think of any news stories recently about Moline giving incentives for downtown projects...

 
At 3/18/2009 8:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Blackwell's project in Moline at Kone Centre can't be compared to Davenport's stadium QCI. That project is not being assisted by Moline through taxes, but through a TIF agreement for future tax collections on that one parcel.

When Davenport got involved in the stadium renovation, the council ordered bonds be sold to pay for the remodeling, and the taxpayers of Davenport are currently paying for that through property taxes. That is for those of us who pay property taxes.

 
At 3/18/2009 9:47 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That ballpark was worth every dime, and you KNOW it.

The only people still bitter about any tax dollars going to that beautiful park are the ones who have visited a packed ballgame, realized they were wrong, and refused to take the foot out of their mouth and just admit it.

This mentality that everything utilizing tax dollars is some evil scheme to waste your money is getting really old. This is the same group of geniuses that believe the BlackHawk renovation is a bad idea because it's utilizing historic tax credits.

As if turning them away will somehow make us "better." Really? Because I'm pretty sure that if our community project doesn't use those credits, someone else in Iowa will in a New York minute. Then, you'll be bitching that Des Moines or Iowa City gets all the good projects, wondering why we were left in the dust!

Anyway, back to baseball. The ballpark is gorgeous, and it's quality right now has a lot to do with the River Bandits ability to succeed.

 
At 3/18/2009 10:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Calgary organization is garbage. They will be moving their lackluster product to their 3rd city in 3 years. Good riddance as far as i'm concerned. Their unwillingness to set roots in any market will be their ultimate downfall. The ownership group did make alot of mistakes but things could've been made much easier if King and Sutter weren't such utter douchebags.
They should rename the team the Nomads.

 
At 3/18/2009 10:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hah... "Nomads" is actually kind of catchy. ;)

 
At 3/18/2009 12:48 PM, Blogger pioneer98 said...

Davenport has wasted a bundle on the stadium? The only bigger waste would be to have a beautiful but empty stadium on our riverfront. Main Street Baseball signed a 25 year lease, so that is an investment that will be paying dividends for a long, long time.

The Mark itself is a perfect example of a downtown Moline project that the city (and state) spent a bundle on. They subsidized its construction 100%. They have not had to subsidize its operation. Not yet, at least. Hopefully that trend continues.

I really think they will find a tenant, maybe not next year because its alrady so late, but maybe the year after. If they get a few more things to go right and a few less to go wrong, I think someone could make it work no problem.

 
At 3/18/2009 12:54 PM, Blogger bettei said...

I would think the city of Moline would be a little more concerned about the restaurants and business around the arena. I hope they can be a good partner in getting another team to come here.

Hockey is the only reason that I ate at the restaurants around there. Without it, I doubt I will be going to them after this season is over.

I am very frustrated over the mistakes made on all sides, and the loss of this team. It's a sad day for hockey fans.

 
At 3/18/2009 3:52 PM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

Davenport and Moline both gave government subsidies to private companies for what they judged to be the greater good of their community. I don't believe its an obvious answer as to who got the better deal, at least at this time.

 
At 3/18/2009 7:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe the QC can simply only support one popular sports team at a time? In the early 80s, we had the Angels. Then the Thunder came on the scene and were hugely popular for their first few seasons--Wharton Field House sold out on a regular basis. Then the Mallards arrived and packed the Mark, while the Thunder withered and died. Then the Steamwheelers showed up and suddenly nobody was interested in hockey. Now baseball is popular again. Hmm....

 
At 3/18/2009 8:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder in ten years, if people are still blogging about the QC, if the againsters will have died off...

 
At 3/19/2009 11:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder in ten years, if people are still blogging in the Quad Cities, if the "haveNOTTERS" will have died off, or will they still be whining that the "HAVERS" should still give them all their entitlements and free lunches in life.

 
At 3/19/2009 7:46 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

11:29AM, I'll have the Tenderloin - well done please - with baked, french on the salad, coffee during the meal, and order the dessert later, thank you.

 
At 3/20/2009 7:19 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

7:46: You are doing the smart thing by carb-loading on this meal, as you are going to need a lot of energy at your job today as mop boy and cleaning the bathrooms at the Venus Bookstore.

 
At 3/20/2009 7:25 AM, Blogger QuadCityImages said...

Nothing like some good intellectual discussion around here...

 
At 3/23/2009 1:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The I-Wireless Center, formerly known as the Mark, is subsidized by both hotel/motel and sales tax. I believe there is also TIF money being used to pay off bonds. When you hear someone say the Center broke even that is AFTER the infusion of expected tax revenue.

 

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