AHL Barons Working To Boost Attendance, Build Brand In Oklahoma City
The AHL Oklahoma City Barons are last in the 30-team league in attendance, averaging "around 3,500 fans a game," raising the question on whether Triple-A hockey can "succeed in a market dominated by an elite NBA team (the Thunder) and two prominent Division I college programs," according to Michael Baldwin of the OKLAHOMAN. The team is an Oilers affiliate, and there is a "misconception that because of lagging attendance," the NHL franchise will "move its Triple-A team out of Oklahoma City when a five-year deal ends in 2015." Both the Oilers and Barons operator Prodigal Hockey "anticipate picking up a three-year option that would extend the deal through 2018," as the Oilers front office "raves about Oklahoma City." But attendance has "been a disappointment, especially compared" to the CHL Blazers, a team that "disbanded four years ago after a 17-year run." The Blazers in the '90s "frequently drew crowds of 10,000-plus." Baldwin reported there has been "some Blazers backlash," as some "devoted fans preferred lower-level hockey with cheaper tickets, more fights and more stable rosters." A new variable is fans are "emotionally attached to the Thunder." Oklahoma City Mayor Mick Cornett said, "The market is different than even the early '90s when the Blazers were a phenomenon. There is more to do. The Thunder is part of that. But it's not just the Thunder. It's cable television. It's the Internet. It's harder to get people's attention." Baldwin noted the Barons have a "hard-core season ticket base of around 2,000 fans" and around 2,500 full-season equivalents, which "ranks in the top half of the AHL." However, the key is "getting the routine fan to attend one of 38 regular-season home games." Barons tickets cost $16-38, and a common suggestion is that Prodigal Owner & President Bob Funk Jr. "should lower upper-deck tickets to $10 or less." Funk said that the Barons "need to average around 4,500 fans for Prodigal to break even" (OKLAHOMAN, 4/17).