Starting last season, we here at Defending Big D became increasingly worried about home attendance for Dallas Stars games. After all, when a team is facing financial difficulties because of the ownership woes, having poor attendance for games only increases the plight. The team generates far less revenue and the players on the ice are attempting to play in front of a crowd that is much smaller than they are accustomed to.Our own Brad Gardner, a season ticket holder, noticed how during the season the crowds diminished more and more as the year progressed.
There were certainly some high points, but overall the American Airlines Center was emptier on a nightly basis than it had ever been before for Dallas Stars games. This was a team that had consistently sold out home games throughout the 1990's and early 2000's, yet now was struggling to just reach 91% from game to game. At a time when revenue was most needed, this was certainly a worse case scenario.
Yet many felt that if the Stars were able to start winning again then the fans would show back up, the merchandise would start to sell again. As frustrating as it may be, Dallas is a town that thrives on success and winning -- just look at the Texas Rangers. The Dallas Stars had spent two seasons floating around in mediocrity and missing the playoffs, all the while unable to generate any sort of excitement in the offseason with a free agent signing or trade. If the Stars could just start winning again, perhaps things would start to turn around.
Well, the Dallas Stars are one of the top teams in the Western Conference thus far in a very early season. Unfortunately, because of yet another quiet summer (and the controversial release of Mike Modano), the Stars' preseason buzz was at an all time low and just because this team has been successful in the first month of the season doesn't guarantee the fans will show up...
The Dallas Stars have played three home games this season. The first -- against Mike Modano and the Detroit Red Wings -- was deemed a sellout in regards to fan attendance. The other two, against the St. Louis Blues and the Nashville Predators, had attendance figures of just under 12,000 against the Blues and then 13,585 against the Predators.
These are the type of numbers we have never seen before in Dallas when it comes to the Stars and their attendance at home. There is the thought that the early attendance woes are due to an uncharacteristically busy fall sports schedule in North Texas and that while the Stars have certainly shown improvement so far in the season, fans are wary of a fall back to earth. The Stars are winning, yet they'll have to win consistently and make a serious run at the playoffs for fans to start flocking back to the AAC.
There's also a factor playing into the home attendance that the Stars have never had to contend with: the Texas Rangers are headed to the World Series.
The woefully low attendance figures for the Blues game could be directly attributed to the Rangers playing a postseason game in Arlington, Texas, not 20 miles from where the Stars were facing off on a Saturday night. Yet even with a later start time and the fact the Rangers game began more than four hours before the opening faceoff, it was apparent that the sparse crowd was due to the amount of attention the baseball game was receiving.
The Dallas Stars and the Texas Rangers share a very similar fanbase. While the die-hard Rangers and baseball fans may disagree, it's the "everyday" and casual fan that really counts when it comes to filling seats for a home game. Right now, with the Rangers past the first round of the playoffs for the first time in franchise history, it's very hard to blame the fans for choosing the Rangers over the Stars. Yet this is all just temporary, right?
Unfortunately, it appears that even more trouble could be on the way.
Two World Series games (and possibly three) are scheduled to be played at the exact same time as the Dallas Stars home games this week against the LA Kings (Oct. 28th) and the Buffalo Sabres (Oct. 30th). What is more unfortunate is that the first home World Series game for the Rangers comes on the 30th, when a good number of Stars fans will be either be at the game in Arlington or deciding to stay home to watch the Rangers play. Chances like this come along only once in a lifetime, and you can't blame fans for choosing playoff baseball over Stars hockey in October.
If the Stars struggled to put 12,000 in the stands when the Rangers were playing at home but before the Stars game, then what will the numbers look like for a World Series home game that is occurring at the same moment?
You wonder what steps the Dallas Stars can take, if any, to try and prevent such disaster. The Stars have taken steps to try and move the Sabres game on the 30th to a much earlier afternoon time slot, even getting permission from the television network to do so, in order to minimize the amount of Stars fans who will choose not to see the game. Unfortunately, because the Sabres on Friday night before traveling to Dallas, the CBA will not allow such a quick turnaround for the game. As such, we can express another incredibly low attendance number.
The hope is that once the World Series ends and Rangers fever starts to die down again, then attendance will start to normalize a bit. After all, this is hockey in October we're talking about and the residents of the area have plenty of sports to occupy themselves week each day of each week. Between the Texas Rangers, Dallas Cowboys, college football, Dallas Mavericks, and high school sports, it's no wonder that the Stars are having trouble filling the seats.
Yet it's so much more than just the World Series and other sports around the area.
Because of the financial woes of the team and Tom Hicks' continuing problems, the Stars' marketing ability has obviously taken a shot. The public exposure for the Stars around the DFW area is astoundingly low and when you combine that with two bad seasons and no new excitement for the Stars, you have an overall fanbase that is just not that interested in paying a significant amount for single tickets for a game that -- in their minds -- is just going to end badly. The buzz around this Stars team in Dallas is damn near non-existent; it's no wonder the Stars are having trouble with attendance.
Adding to that, the local media is completely focused elsewhere. There are no front page posts on the Dallas Stars, there is no attention on a team that is off to a relatively hot spot. So you have a Stars team that is basically forgotten by all except for the most die hard of fans.
Now, the obvious solution is to just win. Continue to win consistently and the Stars start to build that ravenous fanbase back up again. After all, the Rangers weren't seeing this level of attention back in April, May or June. It wasn't until the Rangers had taken a commanding lead over the AL West that we really started to see mainstream attention for the team Right now the Stars are in the same boat.
Early in the season, buzz has yet to truly start building, and the Stars are competing with a significant amount of outside forces for the fan's attention. Yet if the Stars begin to really make noise and are still near the top of the conference later in the season, then you know the fans will start showing up.
For now, the Stars are kicking off a lengthy homestand and hope to prove in front of their own fans they are a team that is committed to winning. With a number of divisional games on the slate, the Stars have the opportunity to not only build some early buzz for the team -- but also to start taking a significant lead in the divisional race.
Let's just hope there will be fans there to see it.