In the almost four full seasons that I have had the pleasure of hosting this little blog-thingy, we’ve discussed numerous varying topics here. We’ve debated the skills and value of countless players as well as certain coaching strategies, and we’ve shared thoughts on draft picks and trades possibilities. While we’ve many times found ourselves having to simply agree to disagree on whatever the issue of the day was, there is one subject that most of us have always found common ground on.
That common ground being… our general distain for the current Thrashers ownership group.
However, as Chris Vivlamore has reported recently reported, there are as many as five entities that have express interest in purchasing the team and ridding Thrasherville of the Atlanta Spirit, LLC, (Lies, Lawsuits and Contempt) once and for all. That day cannot come soon enough…but I do believe it is indeed coming.
But once that day does arrive…and then eventually passes…there will be quite a lot of work required to undo what the AS. LLC have done to this organization and it’s fan base. The damage is extensive, but not beyond repair.
With that in mind, the question I would pose to you this morning is this: If you had the ear of [insert name of possible new owner(s) here], what changes would you suggest they take under consideration? Such an opportunity could come during a town hall meeting…something Don Waddell and the Spiriteers have denied us the pleasure of this year for some odd reason.
What’s that you say out there? “Ice a winning team and the fans will come”.
Yes, yes, yes…winning more games will do wonders to eliminate empty seats in Philips Arena. But until a history of success is established here, there is going to have to be certain changes made in order to address the very serious issue of attendance.
Increasing the payroll would probably be the first thing many of you would offer up to any new owner. We’ve been at or near the bottom of the league minimum for the last several seasons, and we’ve seen what’s come from operating a franchise on a bargain-basement budget.
It gets you a one-way ticket to the bottom of the standings, an early spring tee-time and many times another trip to Lotterypickville.
So payroll is a good place to start for owners, I’m sure we call all agree. But for the sake of this exercise, what I’m looking from you are no-cost, common sense ideas that will increase attendance and better the overall experience at Thrashers games in the here-and-now.
For example, here are three things I would toss out there that don’t come with a price tag and could very possibly have positive results:
First off, I would remove that hideous black curtain that blocks off the 400 sections atop Philips Arena…the Curtain of Shame, as I refer to it. It was placed there at the beginning of the season in order to move the paying customers closer to the ice as to make the place looking less empty.
Let’s just say…mission not accomplished.
Instead I think it would be a good idea to open it up, even if it’s just for $5 general admission seating. Something is always better than nothing when it comes to selling tickets and bringing in possible new fans. It would make for a great place for the many college students in our area to meet to enjoy the game, or even just for those who are otherwise on a tight budget these days.
If you get even 1,000 fans to part ways with an Abe Lincoln to see NHL hockey, then you’ve made five grand that night. Plus, once in the building, those people will add to concession sales.
On top of that, you’ve allowed your product to be viewed by those who might otherwise not pony up the money for more expensive seats…and maybe they’ll like what they see enough to return. If they do, maybe…just maybe… they’ll pay a few more bucks to sit a little closer.
Either way…I would say, “Mr. New Owner, tear down this curtain”!
One other no-cost suggestion I’d make is to start all weeknight home games at 7:30. I’ve been on the fence on this subject in years past, but now I’m convinced the puck drop needs to be backed up 30 minutes.
The logic of starting games at 7:00, so I’ve been told, is to allow families enough time to get the kiddies back home after games in time to tuck them in bed at a decent time. Nice thought, but the thousands of empty seats that greet us every Monday through Thursday night scream that the strategy is not working.
Traffic in Atlanta is a nightmare. And for many, public transit is not a viable option. Cars are our freedom and most of us use them to get to work every day. Trying to get back home afterwards, gather the spouse and tax-exemptions, then get down to the arena for at start time just after 7 pm creates a serious logistical challenge. Especially if your looking to grab dinner before the game.
If fans aren’t bringing the family, 7:30 start times would allow enough time to enjoy a nice sit down meal with friends after work…maybe an adult beverage or two…before they head to the arena in time for the start of the game.
7:00 Saturday starts are fine…and I like Sunday matinees.
Lastly, I would like to see any new owner insist that whomever owns the television rights to Thrashers games air all 41 away games. Even if it means they cut back on a few home games on TV, there is no reason that Thrashers fans cannot watch their team play every out-of-town games without having to drop major coin on the NHL Center Ice package.
At the beginning of this season, just after the home opening win against the Washington Capitals and trip to Tampa the following night, the Thrashers embarked on a three game swing out on the left coast. Those three battles in L.A., Anaheim and San Jose were not televised locally, and because of it most Thrashers fans were unable to see two very exciting wins and Anthony Stewart’s hat trick.
That’s really not the way you want too follow up on the excitement that comes with opening the season with a thrilling win over the defending division champs and the anticipation that comes with a brand new NHL campaign.
Again, the best thing any possible new owner can do is to do whatever is necessary to help bring in a winning team. Ws in the standings have a way of curing just about everything that ails a franchise. But there are still things that they could do to mend a lot of wounds that the current ownership cluster have inflicted upon the good people of Thrasherville.
I’ve listed just a few…I’m sure you have some of your own to offer up.