Do The Thrashers Have Large Talons?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Thrashers Sesaon Ticket Renewals Crater




















I've been asking people in the local hockey leagues how many of them renewed their tickets. The number who have said "yes" is vanishingly small. I can count on one hand the number who still have full season tickets--and this among a group of people who eat, sleep and drink their hockey.

Just how bad were renewal rates? The Sports Business Journal is reporting that as of August 15th the season ticket renewal rate was just 40% for the Thrashers. I have a feeling that many of those who did renew are corporate buyers who don't care all that much about the on-ice product but use the tickets as entertainment for clients. My guess is that among individual fans the renewal rate is probably south of 40%. If my guess is correct, that's quite a statement about what the hockey consumer in this city thinks of the NHL product in this city.

Who can blame them really. The on-ice product has been exceedingly poor for 8 seasons. One playoff appearance and zero playoff wins. There are few markets where hockey would thrive under those conditions. What can a savvy consumer do other than vote with their pocket book?

The thing that concerns me the most is the persent ownership seems to slow to realize what everyone else knows. Back when Hartley pulled Lehtonen out of the playoff game I wrote that this could put his job on the line. The move backfired and the Thrashers lost miserably--but Hartley wasn't fired, he was retained only to be fired 6 games into the next season. Therefore an entire hockey season was flushed down the drain because a decision that should have been made over the summer wasn't made.

This last summer I thought Don Waddell should have been moved up to Team President and a new GM brought in. The Thrashers management has made a string of poor bets and this summer they were turned down by all of their Plan A free agent targets. Now it seems that the fans too have given them a thumbs down. And really, who can blame the fans? When there is no change at the top and no big free agent additions why pony up the cold hard cash for another year of getting losing?

The Thrashers added absolutely nobody new to a front office that has produced mostly unpleasant surprises between 1999-2008. Why should the fans buy the "we're building something special here" line from the same guy who has been promising that for 9-10 years? At this rate the ownership will probably realize they should have hired a new GM a season too late and make a change in the summer of 2009. If you're going to see "fresh start" it helps to have a fresh face selling that to you.

14 Comments:

  • Ouch.

    By Blogger Rich, at 2:04 PM  

  • I can't say I blame the fans, really. It's like as soon as the team achieved the ranks of NHL mediocrity, the rug was pulled out and they had to start over again.

    How does this factor into the ownership squabbles and overall franchise stability down there? Here in Nashville, any small nugget of news is enough to send the Canadian media into a tizzy in the hope that Jim Balsillie will whisk our team away to Hamilton.

    By Blogger The Forechecker, at 2:05 PM  

  • In Atlanta the same people own the building and the Hawks. The Thrashers can loose money but they do fill 43 dates in the building and bring in concession and parking monies (I'm not sure if the latter are credited to the building or to the NHL team.)

    The Hawks are collateral for the arena and can not be moved. Moving the Thrashers makes little financial sense for the building owners unless they see nothing but huge losses into the future.

    Some short term losses are more tolerable because it is all one package and the Hawks receive NBA TV money.

    By Blogger The Falconer, at 3:45 PM  

  • What are the renewal rates for other teams? Obviously, this team is lousy and nobody wants to pay a premium in a bad economy to see this team, but I'd be interested in seeing these numbers in perspective.

    By Anonymous Rasp, at 6:04 PM  

  • This is one sure way to guarantee that the big promotional discounts for games continues. They've already made some changes in lowering their season ticket holder half-season tickets back to $99 and in allowing what were "day of game" discounts to be used in advance.

    Maybe in this spirit we should have our own contest this year--who can see games at the lowest/cost per game. Personally, I think I can probably see 30 home games at an average cost of $10/game or less.

    By Blogger Jennifer, at 6:27 PM  

  • The current owners have been suing each other for more than 3 years. Why on earth would they do anything that might improve the value of the team - costing the winner of the suit more money in the eventual forced buyout of the winner?

    By Blogger Jonathan, at 10:10 PM  

  • How do these guys make hockey decisions? I mean, obviously, DW is in charge. But who is in charge of DW? He's the president, too, right? Well, who is in charge of the president? Does the board vote him off? If so, how does the board of non-hockey people make a decision to hire a hockey man? I mean, I can play Monopoly, but that doesn't mean I could successfully own a hockey team.

    By Anonymous fatschoonerrat, at 10:26 PM  

  • What is the reason that Bernie Mullins left?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:18 AM  

  • How do you see games for so cheap, Jennifer? I want in, I can only afford the cheap seats but want to go to as many games possible, too.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:18 AM  

  • There is certainly a huge problem with the team here, but in all fairness with this issue, I personally know several people who did not renew or just down-graded due to strictly economic issues. While I wouldn't blame the entire 60% drop on a crappy economy, I wouldn't blame the whole thing on a crappy on-ice product either.

    For the record though I still think Kovy alone is worth the price of admission. Not every team is blessed with a hockey god.

    By Anonymous Sara, at 11:19 AM  

  • Bernie Mullin Was let go because he was adding personall at an alarming rate (>200 positions) and not increasing revenues. He also went on vacation a lot. The reduced tickets were his great idea.

    By Anonymous Rasp, at 11:56 AM  

  • jennifer, rasp: i don't know about other markets, but here in montreal, the cheapest (read nosebleeds) seats you can get are $579 for a half-season. Full season tickets range from $1200 -- $7200, plus taxes and surcharges, per seat! And i've seen many offers on craig's list of $10,000+.

    And EVERYTHING is sold out: every game, including pre-season matches. And not just sold out ticket-wise, but butts-in-the-seat, full capacity crowd sold out.

    I don't know about the season ticket renewal rates, but it's gotta be pretty high, since you have to pay non-refundable yearly fee just to be on the waiting list to get them.

    So, I know it's impossible to rejoice in the crappy product you're getting on-ice, but atleast you can enjoy the bargains!

    By Anonymous penniless habs fan, at 12:40 PM  

  • Mr. Anonymous...here are my tips for getting tickets to Thrasher games on the cheap.

    a) Befriend a season ticket holder. If they picked up the half-season tickets then they will likely sell you some games cheap. This is the best deal you will find on tickets.

    b) Buy tickets through Ticketmaster once early in the season. This gets you on the promotion marketing list so that when discounts happen you can be included on the mailing/passwords. Last season ticket master sent me a discount code good for every game in Feb. or March.

    c) Make friends with hockey people. Between message board geeks and local hockey leagues you will find some success. There are nice promotional rates offered to some local leagues and you will meet folks willing to sell you their tickets on the cheap when work/life/vacation dictates they miss a game. Sometimes you also stumble in nice deals because someone committed to sell "x" number of tickets because their team is playing on the ice after the Thrashers. If they are stuck with 10 tickets the day before the game they will sell them to you pretty cheap.

    d) Join the military, take a college class, or hang out with someone who does one of those things. The team gives great ticket discounts in selected sections to people who fall into either category.

    By Blogger Jennifer, at 5:12 PM  

  • Jennifer, thanks for your tips.
    a) Don't have any hockey friends
    b) Ticketmaster is a good idea, I'll do that
    c) Again, no hockey friends
    d) Already in college and have used the student discount, but I'd like to sit in other sections b/c the student section is in the corner (I'd rather have middle seats sometimes)

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:15 PM  

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