Why The Marlies Games Don’t Draw Fans

So I took little TSM to the Marlies game on Sunday. I refuse to take him to a Leaf game until he actually watches the game and not the mascot or the Zamboni. There was a decent crowd at the game, I guess. They announced over 3700, but that is a BIG stretch compared to reality. In any event, the reason the crowd is so small is that they folks running the show, at MLS&E, and I would assume this now includes Mr. Burke, simply are out to lunch when it comes to running this team from a pr standpoint. Here are a couple of free suggestions from proven past experience:

1. You can’t have such a small area for ticket pickup- Way too congested, people were saying screw it and leaving
2. I know it’s an easy comment, but lower ticket prices. $30 is too high for even the best seat in the house. Especially playoffs.
3. Pardon my french, but your concessions suck. No, really, they suck. I tried to get a bucket of popcorn and a bottle of water ($7.50) during the fist intermission, it took the entire intermission plus 5 minutes of the second period to get served and back to my seat. Way too long for pocorn that came out of a bag. One line for credit cards and debit??? Too much of a pain in the butt.
4. Kids, Kids, Kids, Kids. Before every game have 2 (or more) local area teams play before the pre-game warmup. It’s not rocket science. Make each team commit to buying 100 tickets, throw in some pizza and then you start to get your kids.
5. Way more promotions in between whistles and periods. People like giveaways, this isn’t the NHL, make it an event, fun for the whole family. You need way more entertainment.
6. Include the first round of the playoffs in your season ticket package. If you have good base, people won’t have to reach into their pockets again until it really matters
7. Give away 1 season ticket per game- the winner is more likely to come with someone else (a paid someone else!)
8 Corporate Suites are too expensive. They were nearly empty during the playoff game. We tried to buy one for both tonight’s and Thursday game at a reasonable discount and were told no! The guy didn’t ask us for a business card or a contact number to follow up- bad business.
9. Figure out the entrance and exit. It took almost 20 minutes to get out of the place- Brutal
10. If you are going to have a band (and I don’t know why you would at this event) at least make sure they can play decent music.
11. Only 2 of the outside meters worked at the game this weekend. Their were 50-60 people waiting to pay per machine. With 5 or security guards there to prevent fights. Maybe not under your control, but you have a say as to how things are being operated.

I spent a lot of time in the minor league hockey business. This is all about the sizzle and not so much about the steak. These games should be full every game without question. MLS&E can do so much better with this product. It won’t take much and it will lead to increased revenue. It’s a win win. I would have gone to the game tonight but no one called me back!

Feel free to add to the list…


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April 21, 2009 11:59 am

….and the product is entertaining – a great place to take your kid to see a game.

TSM, time to get back into the business and take over the Marlies!

April 21, 2009 4:47 pm

Personally I think the only way to get butts in the seats is by icing a team of real prospects,and that day may be at hand……….a few(most likely ignorant observations

1.I once missed over 1 quarter of an Argo playoff game due to them not being prepared for the demand at the windows,that sucked.

2. 30 bucks is too high for the best seats at a playoff game?

7. Are the seats numbered? cuz giving away one season ticket would mean the tag along would either be sitting somewhere else, unless he/she got incredibly lucky buying the seat next to the season ticket holder.

Luke Craig
Luke Craig
April 21, 2009 9:30 pm

I was at the same game on Sunday, and it was my first time going. I went with my dad and neither one of us knew any of the songs the band was playing.

I was expecting a much larger crowd for a playoff game then what was there, especially seeing that I can’t remember the last Toronto team that made the playoffs.

The only marketing I saw at the game was to text some number and you could win a Toskala jersey, there was no more mention of this, was there even a winner?

The game was great, the atmosphere and everything other then the game was poorly done.

April 22, 2009 12:06 am

i’m writing this as a marlies season ticket holder, a fan of the team, and a reader of the blog. i was there sunday and feel it is just easier to comment on each suggestion you listed:

1. People were saying screw it and leaving? Really? people made it all the way down to ricoh by car and paid for parking or took transit, but when they were confronted with a crowd at the box office they went home? your experience may be different than mine, but i find that hard to believe. the marlies did their best to separate the sales and will-call areas, and had lots of people on hand to help out and direct folks. i thought they did a pretty good job here even if the ticket window folks often are from the acc and don’t understand the product enough to explain it to people as they buy.

2. lowering prices is a no brainer. hamilton charges $26 for walk-up tickets, and discounts are easy to get with any package. the funny thing is that the marlies have lowered their prices since they first opened. (i really want to meet the person who was able to find the marketing research to back up their original prices.) even more, you can get discounts simply by calling the hot line and speaking with any sales rep – at least that was this year; if they use a different accounting system next year, it might be harder to pay less.

3. concessions are brutal. they run out of items. the lines are too long. their payment systems are routinely down. on nights with big crowds, the hallways are just packed with hungry people willing to spend money but unable to do so. even if i recognize the difficulty with planning food and staffing when the crowd size isn’t certain, the marlies are really let down by their building sometimes.

4. kids is another no brainer, and they did have minor hockey nights on most game nights that brought with them large groups of players, coaches and parents. the trouble is that the playoff schedule is not finalized until the end of the season and there is little lead time given to find a minor hockey team willing to come out with such little notice. i can’t see this ever working with week night games.

5. total agreement about promos. but what about noise makers as we walked in the building? manitoba gave out clackers for their playoff games. the marlies gave out bells and other things earlier this season. why not something to get the crowd into it when the games mean so much more?

6. the marlies already include the first round of the playoffs in your season ticket package. does this make it more or less sad?

7. i’m not sure how they would give away 1 season ticket. but they could give away a flex pack of tickets, so that they could come back to a couple of games and bring a couple of folks with them.

8. i made it a habit of counting the suites used at every game. in the past two months, i would say between 50% and 75% of them were used on most game nights. i never looked into pricing, so i can’t really comment here.

9. completely agree with the entrance problems. between the main men’s bathroom, the customer service desk, the people lining up for autographs, and ticket sales, as well as the overall design of the space, this is gridlock waiting to happen. you should be there when they get over 6,000 people and there is something on at the national trade centre. people push their way through fire exits just to get out. a piss poor way to end an experience.

10. as much as i like the idea of live music, the bands usually are pretty lame, which is not unlike the arena music that is the same crappy mix of uninteresting arena rock. provided that there are band auditions, i hope they stick with this for next year.

11. the meters. yep, like i said for 3, the facility can really undermine the marlies’ efforts. still though, it is easier and cheaper to park in liberty village, walk through the go station and under the train tracks to the ricoh.

like i mentioned in number 4, the playoffs are a tough sell for group tickets. it is difficult to organize a large group when you don’t know the date of the game and can’t plan for it. most of the groups that came to regular season games planned their outings with weeks’ or usually months’ notice. this is a huge part of the regular season ticket sales, so removing it hurts playoff crowds.

playoff crowds traditionally lag behind regular season ones for ahl teams. every team struggles with it. given the marlies have smaller than average crowds and operate in a fickle and easily distracted city, it is no surprise it is happening here.

i know i sound like a bit of an apologist for the team – i’m willing to give their employees a break because these are often their first post-university jobs; i like the AHL product so i don’t mind if we don’t win; i generally like the building, so i don’t mind if getting to my seats in the north end are a huge experience in walking and patience; i don’t need to be in a sold out arena to enjoy the experience.

that said, there are lots of things the marlies can do to improve including many of the things you listed. i would only add:
-7:30 pm starts on weeknights; and
-better in-game experience including improving music, turning down the sound, showing scores from other leagues than just the AHL, and varying the intermission programming.

still though, if you really want to go, you just have to call the hotline. they make it easy to be there even if you can’t find a reason why.

The Meatriarchy
April 22, 2009 6:26 am

Why hasn’t anyone in the major sports media picked up on this? It has all the elements of a perfect Toronto Star Article.

April 22, 2009 8:08 am

They should learn from the OHL

April 22, 2009 10:01 am

I just hate their stupid dog jerseys, it really makes the team look like a bunch of wussies.

Ricoh coliseum is a dump, too. Especially after going to a Mississauga St. Mike’s Majors game at the Hershey Centre.

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