The St. Louis Blues have completed roughly 25% of their home schedule. With 10 home games in the books, the Blues have posted an average attendance of 16,644 fans a game. The early figures were low because of the St. Louis Cardinals and their World Series run, but have things improved? How does attendance stack up compared to the team's attendance in 2012-13?
Disappointing attendance isn't a new issue. The Blues failed to post a sellout for any of their three playoff games at the end of 2012-13. Three playoff games, three disappointing crowds.
Let's take a look at the attendance so far in 2013-14:
Oct. 3 - Nashville - 18,851 (98.4%) - Home opener
Oct. 5 - Florida - 16,264 (84.9%)
Oct. 9 - Chicago - 16,565 (86.5%)
Oct. 12 - New York Rangers - 18,130 (94.7%)
Oct. 15 - San Jose - 14,503 (75.7%)
Oct. 25 - Vancouver - 17,604 (91.9%)
Oct. 29 - Winnipeg - 15,287 (79.8%)
Nov. 7 - Calgary - 14,877 (77.7%)
Nov. 9 - Pittsburgh - 18,685 (97.6%)
Nov. 12 - Phoenix - 15,678 (81.9%)
Perhaps the biggest thing to make note of here is that the Blues have yet to record a sellout. The home opener and the team's game against Pittsburgh were close, but even these games fell several hundred fans short of 100% capacity.
Based on average capacity, the Blues (86.9%) rank 19th in the NHL in attendance. This number is noteworthy, but it's fairly flexible as some teams have only played a handful of games at home while the Blues have already hosted 10.
In 2012-13, the Blues averaged 17,901 fans a night. This represented an average capacity of 93.5% over the course of 24 home games. Their capacity percentage ranked 15th in the NHL. Currently the Blues are averaging roughly 1,300 fewer fans a night.
While no one wants to make excuses, the Cardinals were certainly a factor at the start of the year. Since then, attendance has been a bit more predictable with Tuesday and Thursday games dropping the average and weekend games boosting it back up. Overall the numbers are still pretty disappointing. You'd expect a marquee game against Pittsburgh on the weekend to have a big crowd, but the Blues need larger crowds against the average opponent on a weekday night.
It may not be totally fair comparing this year's attendance to 2012-13's numbers as the lockout certainly caused a spike in the early numbers. It's also difficult to look too much further back as the old ownership loved to promote the fact they had reached 19,150 fans even though the stadium was obviously not sold out.
Why is this topic so important? The Blues raised their payroll to $63.4 million (just under the $64.3 cap) over the summer. Back in 2012-13 the team was on the hook for $52.1 million in player salaries. The boost in salary kept Pietrangelo and Shattenkirk in St. Louis, gave Bouwmeester a new deal and brought in Derek Roy, Brenden Morrow, Maxim Lapierre and a couple others.
Aside from a lengthy playoff run, the Blues need strong regular season attendance to help justify and pay for the increased payroll.
Agree with The Hat.
However, I would caveat the "winning fixes everything" to "winning in the playoffs fixes everything." They've shown they can win in the regular season now. Just not more than 2 games in post season since what, 04?
Regarding the sales team, they've recently created a "Client Development Team." I received a new STH Account Rep in early October. She has been contacting me frequently with information, offers, and is quite friendly. Not dealt with her enough to know about the accommodation part yet. NOTE: My last STH Rep was also quite friendly and she WAS accommodating regarding my requests and listening to my concerns.
I've heard horror stories of poor customer service, with flat out lack of caring and empathy from the Blues office. They've lost a dozen STHs due to their lack of "interest" and caring that I know personally. Several others that I've heard about.
Sorry this comment was directed at the STH side. But points to issues with retaining and taking care of their core. STHs.
As a STH who occasionally travels to other arenas, the Blues are miles away in terms of fan friendliness and in-game presentation. They're getting better, but have a ways to go. Building camaraderie and creating an atmosphere where people WANT to be is crucial for today's MTV/ADD generation.
One thing that has turned me off is their sales team. The level of friendliness and accommodation has fallen dramatically in recent years. This was precipitated by Checketts bringing in hot-shot marketing grads instead of sales staff who know the city and the product.
But in my mind that is secondary. Winning, and/or the perception of winning put butts in the seats. I think its pretty clear that while the Blues have some "loveable" players, and have no doubt spent money, the lack of marquee talent is keeping the casual fan away. Pietrangelo is being paid as a marquee player, but hasn't yet reached the status of a Pronger or MacInnis. Not addressing the scoring with a "sniper" has also put a perception, right or wrong, about the team's ability to score regularly, and thus win. I think people are sick of first round flameouts.
And, lastly, you do have to consider the economy. The team again raised ticket prices, in some cases dramatically. This is not a strong market financially, and disposable income may just not be there to support spending at this level.
But winning fixes everything.