About a week ago, Daniel responded to an article from The Business Journal that ranked the Ducks as the third easiest team to root for on account of the fact that Anaheim has been relatively successful since the Lockout. While it's nice to see the Ducks get some national attention for their winning ways, the team's relatively recent success hasn't shown up in terms of attendance.
In 2010-2011, the Ducks drew an average home crowd that was larger than only Columbus, (now defunct) Atlanta, Phoenix, and the Islanders. While the Ducks will always be at something of a disadvantage in terms of overall attendance given the relatively low capacity of Honda Center, even at their height, the Ducks haven't finished higher than 15th in terms of home attendance. Since the Ducks reached their zenith in 2007-2008 of 17,193 a night, they have seen their average fall by nearly 2,500 people per game in just four years.
The Samuellis aren't Mark Cuban, and the team operates on a very tight budget. In 2009-2010, the Samuellis lost over $5 million on hockey operations and at the Season Ticket Holder Open House, Murray also mentioned that the team had spent some money trying to cover the owner's hole. As other teams have made aggressive moves in this year's free agency, the Ducks have played things conservatively, leaving space for Teemu and not much else. With Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Lubomir Visnovsky, and Tonii Lydman becoming UFA in 2013-2014, as well as Cam Fowler, Brandon McMillan, Dan Sexton, and Matt Beleskey becoming RFAs that same year, it's imperative for the Ducks to get their financial house in order if they're to stand any chance of resigning or extending even half of those players.
Join me after the jump as I give my two big ideas for how the Ducks can get more people to Honda Center and how this team can remain financially competitive in the next few years.
Idea 1 - The Pittsburgh Penguins Model
No, I don't mean signing Sidney Crosby. While it certainly helps having arguably the best player in the league on your team, the Penguins have implemented a game-day promotion for tickets that every NHL team (especially American ones) should be following. Called the Student Rush, the Penguins basically offer up any remaining tickets on game days to college students for $25 each. These seats aren't limited to just the upper bowl, rather any unused seats are fair game.
If you've been to a Ducks game in the past two years, you've probably seen a familiar sight: A reasonably filled upper bowl and club level (excluding suites) and a sparsely populated lower bowl. If you've ever looked at tickets in the lower bowl, this shouldn't surprise you. Even with season tickets, you can't get a seat in the lower bowl for less than $56. And if you look at actual game-day pricing, that number jumps up considerably. Like hotel rooms, unused tickets for an event represent a lost opportunity. Tickets are a perishable asset, and the Ducks should seriously consider getting something for those seats, even if it's well below what they'd otherwise prefer.
I think the Ducks should offer a variant of the Penguins' Student Rush program. Instead of offering up any unused seats for just college students, I think the Ducks should also give any fans with some kind of ticket package the ability to upgrade their seats on game-day for $15 a seat. Not only would you hopefully be packing the house (at least the lower bowl, which would look much better on TV), but you'd also be giving new and existing fans the opportunity to experience the game up-close and personal. While I understand that the team would like to get full value for these seats, $15 or $25 per seat is better than nothing and it would go a long way toward making hockey a more attractive opportunity for college-age fans. In theory, you'd be able to hook these fans with the game-day seats and hope that they eventually become long-term fans of the team.
Idea 2 - The San Diego Market
I know I bring up San Diego a lot. I used to live there and I have a much better understanding of that market than I do, say, the Orange County market (I do currently live in Beaumont, after all). However, I firmly believe that the Ducks have a huge opportunity with the San Diego market and the way their home schedule plays out this year only further emphasizes this fact.
The Ducks have 12 Sunday home games this year. Sunday games, which start at 5:00, are ideal for fans who travel as the early start gives them the ability to get home at a reasonable time after the game and offers the ability to see a game without having to leave work early. With so many Sunday home games this year, the Ducks could easily create a San Diego ticket pack of like 8 to 10 games that offers a 30% discount on the full price of tickets and also includes like a $50 gas card.
In addition to some kind of specialized package, the Ducks should also focus on expanded TV coverage throughout San Diego County. With only a handful of games currently available on Fox Sports West, the Ducks are only on TV in San Diego a few times a year (as Prime Ticket is not available for most San Diego area subscribers). Although I would prefer for the Ducks to try to switch Fox affiliates with the Kings (it makes geographic sense, after all), they may have a huge opportunity to hook San Diego fans this coming season by staying on Prime Ticket.
The San Diego Padres are in negotiations with Fox to create another regional sports channel, likely to be called Fox Sports San Diego or Southern California. While the new network is likely at least a year away from launch, Fox is rumored to be considering making Padres games available on Prime Ticket until the new channel is operational. They would also be working in concert with San Diego's television carriers to ensure that Prime Ticket is available on each of those systems. With an aggressive marketing campaign, the Ducks could advertise heavily during Padres games on Prime Ticket in order to build interest. When the regional sports channel is finally created, the Ducks should also try to make a pitch to have games simulcast on both an LA-based Fox affiliate and on the new San Diego-area channel (which will likely be struggling to find content anyway).
Of the two ideas, I think the student/upgrade idea would be the easiest to implement and would also probably be more advantageous to the team in the near term. That said, there is absolutely no reason for the Ducks to ignore the potential of the San Diego market. The team does already make an effort to involve San Diego in certain activities like their rink tours, but I definitely think there's an untapped hockey market that would gladly support a team if they had one to support.
What do you think? Do you see any drawbacks to either of these ideas? What ideas do you have for the Ducks that could boost attendance?