Dallas Stars Look to Raise Attendance with Stronger Play

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The mentality of the Dallas/Fort Worth sports fan is often characterized by the local media and parts beyond as "fair weather." Local aficionados will tell you that this is a "winners town" and that (a sizable portion of) the people here purchase tickets only after pondering "What have you done for me lately?"

It would appear that Dallas Stars fans are asking themselves that same question. The NY Times reported that NHL attendance is down league wide 1.1% through November 2nd for the same period last year. The Stars, through eight games, report total attendance at 135,648. Last season their number through eight games was 142,981. By my math that is a 5.13% decrease to an average of 16,956.

These troubled economic times play a role, no doubt. With less disposable income to go around these days (if there is such a thing), it's not surprising sports would suffer. It makes sense that attendance would be down across the DFW sports scene, right?

The Dallas Mavericks, fresh off their 9th straight 50 win season, are filling the American Airlines Center to 103.4% capacity on average this year according to ESPN. Early though it may be, that leads the NBA.

The Texas Rangers have struggled with their attendance for years in appropriate proportionality to their on-field performance. They had an up year this summer, and their attendance saw one of the largest increases in the league.

The Dallas Cowboys will likely never have trouble selling tickets despite not having won a playoff game in 14 years. Like the Toronto Maple Leafs, who haven't won a Stanley Cup since there were six teams in the league, they are the toast of the town and can do little to discourage patrons from their hallowed halls. The NFL is an unstoppable beast that probably doesn't belong in discussions such as these.

But what of the Dallas Stars?

After the jump: The Stars declining attendance over the last 10 years...

In September, the Stars announced a "dynamic" ticket pricing system, adjusting for the value of particular games. This was to provide a better deal to the consumer for games perceived as lower profile, while preserving revenues from more attractive (often weekend) match-ups. Two months later, after only 7 home games, they announced half price tickets for all November and December home games. (code: DRPEPPER)

Through this admittedly small sample size of only eight home games, the Stars are on pace for their lowest average attendance since opening the American Airlines Center in 2001.

 

Year

Average

% Full

2009-2010

16,956

91.5%

2008-2009

17,680

95.4%

2007-2008

18,038

97.3%

2006-2007

17,914

96.7%

2005-2006

17,828

96.2%

2004-2005

Lockout

Lockout

2003-2004

18,355

99%

2002-2003

18,532

100%

2001-2002

18,532

100%

2000-2001*

17,001

100%

 

*Reunion Arena

It could be, that even with all of the wonderful work the Stars have done in the area over the last sixteen years, that the further away we get from the Stanley Cup in 1999, the more attendance will fall. I loathe to think that is true, but in a place as far south as we are, it could be that a certain segment of fandom understood winning a lot more than they understood hockey. It's Dallas, TX, after all.

So if the Mavericks can fill the same building every other night, and Jerry can set records at the Death Star, is the economy really holding the Stars back? Are they being slowly squeezed out of the picture as what precious little money people have gets redirected elsewhere? Will hockey's place at the bottom of the Dallas food chain finally hurt them? Or is it the performance of the team?

I suspect it is some of both.

King of the Sunbelt?

While the Stars may not be doing as well as they have in seasons past at the gate, it is important to remember how well they're doing in comparison to cities of similar latitude:

Team

Home games

Average

% Full

Dallas

8

16,956

91.5

Los Angeles

8

16,148

87.3

Carolina

7

15,331

81.9

Anaheim

10

15,100

87.9

Florida

6

14,643

76.1

Tampa Bay

7

14,329

72.5

Atlanta

6

13,559

73.1

Nashville

6

13,398

78.3

Phoenix

8

9,526

54.4

Atlanta, despite being so low on that list, has actually seen a slight increase. Fanhouse calculates their October gate up 1.83% over last year.

The Coyotes numbers are down as expected, but to average less than 10k a night? After a tumultuous summer, all the wrong kinds of publicity, and a last minute coaching change, the team is actually giving people a reason to come out and see some hockey. Hardly anyone is paying attention, it seems. The housing crisis hit Phoenix pretty hard, and the job market there is not much better. I had the pleasure of visiting Jobing.com Arena two seasons ago, and it's a nice place. It's a shame for the league that they can't fill it.

Then there's Southern California. The Ducks stuffed their building to 102.6% capacity just two seasons ago, and have started this year off at a scant 87.9%. The Kings have the league's leading scorer, and look like the real deal, yet are also seeing early losses. Same question: Economy or team performance? The Ducks have had a slow start and will likely pick their numbers up some as they play their way back into the playoff race.

Come on out

This is one of those things that we can actually do something about. Don't like the way those empty seats look on TV? Hearing those comments about the "late arriving" crowd at the AAC? Are you making those comments? Are you dreaming about that fat payroll of seasons past? These things are not entirely unrelated.

Now, you can't walk up to the box office, hand over your $30 bucks for a ticket or two and say "Please put this in the puck-moving defenseman fund, thank you." It doesn't work like that. But it's not exactly going to hurt the cause either.

I don't work for the Stars. This is not a commercial. In fact, I have to wait longer to go to the bathroom when the building is full, but full I'd like to see it anyway. So come see a hockey game.This team is poised to do some nice things this year, and you don't want to miss it. At the very least, you can buy me a beer.

Attendance numbers were gathered from ESPN Attendance Numbers, NHL game-by-game stats, and NHL Fanhouse.

Data does not take last night's NHL games into account*

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