Hockey Struggling To Make Ticket Goal.
Cincinnati Post by John Lachmann
Unless sales pick up dramatically in the next
few weeks, Cincinnati faces the indefinite loss
of professional hockey.
accepting about 500 season-ticket deposits from
mid-December to mid-January, the Cincinnati
' pace has fallen off drastically.
have taken just over 300 season tickets in the
past six weeks, giving the AHL franchise nearly
1,100 full-season tickets, more than 900 shy of
its goal of 2,000, which it needs to reach by
In the next
few days, team president and CEO Pete Robinson
plans to set a "drop-dead" date for sometime
near the end of this month, at which time the
team could do just that. Or if the team meets
its goal, it would make an announcement that
hockey will return to Cincinnati Gardens this
"I'm going to guess
sometime between the third week of March and
(Reds) Opening Day, we'll either be moving
forward or we'll be done," Robinson said.
The goal of 2,000
was set by the
in October after the team determined that number
was necessary to guarantee the financial
viability of hockey here, taking into account
its expenses with no incoming revenue this
$25 for 25- and 40-game packages (25-gamers
count as 5/8 of a full-season ticket toward the
2,000 goal), and the balance can be paid in
Upper level and end
zone seats are $450 each for all 40 games and
$300 for the 25-game package, while lower level
seats are $540 and $360.
The project is
taking longer than expected, and Robinson said
in January the quality of affiliation available
for Cincinnati would depend on how quickly the
team could reach its goal.
can tell you that we've already missed the boat
with a couple potential affiliations," Robinson
Robinson also said
he needs to find out how long an NHL team would
be willing to wait on the resolution of the
Cincinnati situation, which could affect when
the drop-dead date is set. That could indicate
Cincinnati would be left with one of the more
undesirable NHL affiliates because of the
long-standing uncertainty here.
Teams like the
Colorado Avalanche, the Florida Panthers and the
Phoenix Coyotes could be among the final matches
for Cincinnati, but none had enough players to
fill an entire roster with prospects in 2005-06,
so Cincinnati could be forced to fill its roster
with free agents, college and lower-level pro
But lagging ticket
sales are ultimately the cause of the team's
hesitation to bring a team back here. The
have consistently missed short-term goals the
last couple of months.
went into meetings in Winnipeg, Manitoba, during
the AHL All-Star Break in late January, two
weeks after saying he wanted to have 1,000-1,200
at that point. The team was below 900 at the
time of his trip.
vice president of communications Don Helbig said
in mid-January that " -- if you're at March 10
and you're still 700 or 800 away, you can't bank
on 700 by March 31."
Helbig also said at that point that "if the
trend shows in early March that you're not
likely to get there, then you know the NHL and
the AHL -- is not going to work here."
So why is
the ticket campaign still ongoing?
"I think that the
big change there is that of the nearly 1,100
deposits we have, 75 percent of it is new
business," Robinson said. "I think that if we
were at the same number right now -- the
existing base -- and we had no new business in
here, then we might feel that we'd tapped it
Which means the
real problem is in Cincinnati's hockey community
itself, which has been slow to put down
"If we were sitting
at 300 or 400 deposits right now, we had a plan
to pull the plug Feb. 28," Robinson said. "But
we literally have hundreds of people that have
bought packages here (in the past), that for
whatever reason they have not gotten involved
So if several
hundred of those unaccounted-for hard-core
hockey fans put down deposits, and the
continue at their current 200-ticket-per-month
pace during March, the team still falls several
hundred tickets short of its goal.
hope to make up the difference with an assault
of advertising this month, including continued
television spots, and they might introduce a 10-
or 15-game package to attract non-diehard and
Misconceptions about the season-ticket campaign
could be hindering the drive. Some believe that
the team will still affiliate with an NHL club
if it does not reach 2,000. But the operating
expenses to run an AHL team have risen since
1997, when the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks first
took the ice.
it would cost $3 million-$4 million to field a
team here in 2006-07, and at $13 each, 2,000
tickets for 40 games would generate about $1
million, meaning improved walk-up crowds would
be necessary for the team to break even.
fail to reach their goal, it is unlikely another
team would land in Cincinnati soon. The
Robinsons also own Cincinnati Gardens, and
Robinson said he would not try to lure a team in
a lower league here. The other viable rink in
Cincinnati -- U.S. Bank Arena -- saw the ECHL
Cyclones fold in 2004.
the 2003-04 Cyclones, who were in a lower
league, were comparable to last season's Ducks
tickets, and tickets in other low minor leagues
are nearly the same or higher this season.