"So...those are the benefits to being a STH this season. Well, I used the words "they are what they are" earlier in this post. I could use it again in conclusion here as well. Other teams do significantly better. We're among the highest in the AHL when it comes to season ticket prices. Are we given the same benefits? Last season, I (and every other STH) essentially had to write off any ineptness as part of the first year learning curve. This year, there's not that excuse for anyone to fall back on, and frankly, it's time to start putting up or shutting up as far as I'm concerned. I'm somewhat impressed that some of these benefits have apparently come about due to fan/STH suggestions. At least I have an inkling we may not be talking to a brick wall on occasion."
--Candace, OKC Barons Hockey, on the perks of being a Barons' season ticket holder.
In an article published last week, Candace walked through all of the perks afforded to Oklahoma City Barons' season ticket holders, from merchandise discounts to drinks at the lounge and from parking passes to special raffles. And while it looks good on paper, her final take on the perks offered is that the team must do better to keep existing season ticket holders happy and attract new season season ticket holders to the Cox Center. She compares the perks that a Barons' season ticket holder receives to those that season ticket holders for the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and Charlotte Checkers receive and found the Barons' offering lacking.
But it's not other AHL teams that Barons' ownership must compete with. After all, Barons' fans can't really vote with their feet for another hockey team. The Barons are up against the Oklahoma City Thunder, the NBA's new darlings, in a winter battle for Oklahoma City's entertainment and corporate dollars. And while the Barons shouldn't be expected to compete with an NBA team on fan perks, they will have to be more creative .
The Barons' inaugural season attendance was a disappointment -- their 4,155 fans per game ranked 22nd in the league -- and it was made worse by sparse playoff crowds. Though attendance did not increase as expected as the Barons fought for a playoff spot down the stretch, the 2,554 fans per game attracted to the Cox Center in the Calder Cup Playoffs placed the Barons dead last in the AHL. It was disappointing, to say the least.
Though the Oilers have seemingly improved their player development process, the Barons need financial stability to become a top-notch development organization for the Oilers, and disappointing attendance doesn't build much confidence in the viability of the franchise. Neal thinks time is key, that the crowds will come with stability and familiarity, but the Barons are competing with an NBA team on the rise right next door, a team that will soak up excess dollars if they continue to have playoff success.
The ability to keep the season ticket holders happy is key to creating a stable and familiar base. Candace makes a number of small suggestions toward that goal -- a carnival, releasing pre-season schedules earlier, details on promotional giveaways -- that are neither difficult nor expensive to pull off, they just require a bit of kid glove care. Creativity and kid glove care are the way through the early rough patch for the Barons. It will benefit the Barons and the Oilers in the long run.