Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Minor Struggles

I attended a minor league hockey game with my son this week and the good news is that he enjoyed it. The bad news is that I didn't. We watched the home game between "our" Phoenix Roadrunners and the visiting Victoria Salmon Kings of the ECHL at USAirlines Arena (or as I still call it, "America West"). The game was not well-played and though our Roadrunners had plenty of shots, they didn't seem particularly powerful or well placed (many went right off the middle of the goalies chest pads). Worse was the crowd. We're talking tiny. Like maybe 1000 people. I have no idea how the Roadrunners are making this work financially but I wish them well. With Coyotes tickets so expensive, its nice to have a lower cost alternative. But if quality of play is your priority, then the Coyotes are a must. I do like the Roadrunners logo so they have that going for them. I hope I just came on a bad night. Go Roadrunners!

The Arena Football Arizona Rattlers have also been struggling the past few years. They used to sell out and the atmosphere at "America West" was outstanding. But since the Dbacks came to town, season ticket numbers have dwindled. The team has also struggled on the field the last few years as well. The good news is that team owner Brett Bouchy took over last year and has already started turning the franchise around under coach Kevin Guy. Last year was a largely new roster and the team showed potential amidst the growing pains. The crowds have increased just a bit as well (though they'll probably never get back to the pre-DBacks days).

This off-season the Rattlers signed former Rattler QB Joe Germaine (yes, the same guy who led Ohio State to a victory over ASU in the Rose Bowl back in '97) of Glendale and they just announced they've hired former coach Danny White as the offensive coordinator. Read the story HERE. This is great news for Rattlers fans, but I wonder what Coach Guy thinks about having White looking over his shoulder?

Perhaps more interesting is what the Arena Football League itself is doing to stay competitive. After 22 years of surprising success, the league is now moving to a "single entity ownership" structure in order to combine marketing and sales strategies. Read more about that move HERE in the Sports Business Journal. $100 million should provide some much-needed cashflow in these tough economic times.

Phoenix is full of professional sports options, and perhaps too many. I mean TWO hockey teams in the desert?! We've also had pro indoor soccer, pro indoor lacrosse, USFL football, minor league basketball (and all signs are we'll have it again with the Phoenix Fury at the Fairgrounds Arena) and all kinds of minor league baseball. Hopefully our "good" minor league franchises (the Roadrunners and the Rattlers) will find away to get the attention of the ticket buying public and keep their franchises moving forward.

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