Sellout weekend sought by RiverHawks

Executives hope giveaways, wins keep stands full

Special
Fayetteville's Rob Sich sneaks the puck away from Augusta's Matt Auffrey.
  • Follow RiverHawks

It's been almost two years since Augustans have had the opportunity to watch a regular season minor league hockey game at James Brown Arena.

Augusta RiverHawks executives have been working since February to make sure that streak ends this weekend for thousands of potential fans.

"It's a big celebration for us, and a lot of effort went into this opening weekend," general manager Gilles Richard said. "With the ticket pricing and how we've blanketed the arena, we're looking to go back-to-back sellouts. It's never been done in our league, so we like to set high goals for ourselves."

The RiverHawks opened their inaugural season in Fayetteville, N.C., on Thursday night and will return for tonight's home opener. Defending Southern Professional Hockey League champion Huntsville will face the RiverHawks, and Richard and his staff are hoping thousands of fans will attend.

Tickets start at $11, and the first 5,000 fans at tonight's game will receive a free thunderstick. In-game promotions will include a flat-screen television giveaway and smaller prizes. Richard said the idea is to grab the attention of casual fans early in the season.

"Opening weekend is the key," he said. "But also, this is something the fans can look forward to that we're going to keep consistent throughout the year. We're really going to drive as much giveaways and fan activities as we possibly can to keep them intrigued about hockey."

The arena, which seats 6,602 for hockey games, will charge $5 for parking in its primary lot across the street from the main entrance along Seventh Street.

The RiverHawks will also play at home Saturday night with more fanfare planned by the team's front office.

"I was looking at my board in my office the other day and we have over $100,000 worth of giveaways. That's just straight-up giveaways, so we're going to be prepared," Richard said. "We really want to make it a big part of the city and something that's really about entertainment and not just hockey."

Hockey fever hit the city when the ECHL's Augusta Lynx arrived in 1998. More than 7,000 fans showed up for the team's first game, and the Lynx averaged 5,443 fans a game in their first season.

But the novelty wore off and that number dropped to 4,767 by the second year and below 4,000 by 2003. Lynx ownership cited lack of fan support when it shut the team down in December 2008, averaging fewer than 2,600 fans per game.

Both Gilles and RiverHawks owner Bob Kerzner said the new team, operating as an expansion franchise in the Southern Professional Hockey League, has roughly half the expenses of an ECHL team and can thrive with as few as 3,000 fans per game. But they still have a game plan set to keep the fans from losing interest.

Richard said it starts with giving Augusta a winning team, a task charged to first-year coach Brad Ralph.

"If we put that kind of product on the ice, people will respect that and they'll come back for that and eventually it'll overwhelm the promos," Richard said. "That's the key to us. We're here for hockey. That's what we're about, and we really want to put a good, strong product on the ice that the city, the fans and the media can be proud to be associated with."

The RiverHawks will play a 56-game schedule in the SPHL, with all 28 home games played at James Brown Arena.

Comments (12) Add comment
ADVISORY: Users are solely responsible for opinions they post here and for following agreed-upon rules of civility. Posts and comments do not reflect the views of this site. Posts and comments are automatically checked for inappropriate language, but readers might find some comments offensive or inaccurate. If you believe a comment violates our rules, click the "Flag as offensive" link below the comment.
SlapShot2
0
Points
SlapShot2 10/22/10 - 08:53 am
0
0
They just dont get it either.

They just dont get it either. The "executives" need to talk to Cal Ripken and the Greenjackets. Its not about winning that brings people out its entertaining them when they are there and makeing people feel speacial when they come out. The Lynx's though it was about wins and dance girls and thats why the are gone. Go Hawks and I will be there with my family tonight.

pommom38
1496
Points
pommom38 10/22/10 - 10:01 am
0
0
Ahem. Sold out? Nice goal to

Ahem. Sold out? Nice goal to set, but that's just not reality. Not just for the fact it's a minor league team, but you're competing with fairs right now. Many will choose that over a game.
I really hope they pick it up!! 3 games, 3 losses. Doesn't matter 2 were an exhibition game, the track record is off to a BAD start to gain loyal fans.
Slapshot, agree 100%!! I am not even a *casual* fan, and if I want to watch a bunch of men skating, I can do that at home for free! It is what are they going to do to keep those like me and many others *entertained* to make us want to sit in a seat for hours.

Little Lamb
43827
Points
Little Lamb 10/22/10 - 10:15 am
0
0
Okay, we're talking Friday

Okay, we're talking Friday and Saturday nights in October. In addition to the fairs mentioned by pommom (Columbia County, Exchange Club, Western Carolina, South Carolina State Fair in Columbia), we have high school football, college football, and the major league baseball playoffs. That's a lot of competition for minor league hockey in the deep south.

Crabby Appleton
0
Points
Crabby Appleton 10/22/10 - 10:53 am
0
0
I wouldn't go to a hockey

I wouldn't go to a hockey game if the admission was free and concession stands too. I don't get the game, which is not all that unusual for someone growing up in the south where there's no icy ponds for casual skating or hockey programs in the school athletic system.

I also think it's disgusting that the Arena and it's concourses get draped in hundreds of advertising banners all over the place like graffiti in a New York subway, and stays up permanently all season during non hockey events.

Others, some with deep pockets and ink by the barrel have tried to make hockey a mainstay for augustans but it doesn't hold interest long. My guess is two to three seasons and they're out, and that's ok with me, but I'd prefer a less drawn out painful death for everyone concerned.

Tipsey McStumbles
0
Points
Tipsey McStumbles 10/22/10 - 11:39 am
0
0
I'm personally excited about

I'm personally excited about the new team, and I truly hope that Augusta rallies to support the Augusta RiverHawks! I'm both a father and local Downtown business owner and the benefits that Ice Hockey has brought to me personally with my son born and raised in Augusta, GA playing Ice Hockey and the positive effects it could have on our beautiful Historic Downtown area are immeasurable.

The thought that because we are in the "South" and hockey could'nt possibly be interesting to a "Southern" person is narrow minded at best!

The sport of Ice Hockey is a complex ballet on ice, with flashes of brute force and skilled marksmanship. The young men that play and love this game come to Augusta from all over the U.S. and Canada with heart and desire that has likely been with them from their youth playing on ponds and rinks in places just like Augusta, GA (just a bit colder).

ruudvonbaron
0
Points
ruudvonbaron 10/22/10 - 02:07 pm
0
0
Deke needs to talk to Wayne

Deke needs to talk to Wayne Gretzky and get the taxpayers to sign up for building a new hockey arena on the Riverfront.

hockeymann
226
Points
hockeymann 10/22/10 - 03:07 pm
0
0
All that's needed at the JB

All that's needed at the JB Arena is a decent scoreboard. Otherwise, its
a great venue for ice hockey. I don't know if we sell out tonight, but I think it'll be a good crowd...As to the couple of you on here, making negative comments, why are you even on here?? As to Ripken, he's apparently not going to be happy unless the public builds him new stadium to replace the perfectly good one we now have..WHY?? We can
park free at Lake Olmstead, and its much safer there..As to the Riverhawks, we appear to have the best owner we've ever had..I'll be there tonight..Hope a lot of you make it..If you choose the fair instead,
you're not a hockey fan..Go ride the rides if so.
Wins DO mean quite a lot in pro hockey..The Lynx consistently lost
the past 4-5 years vs. being playoff contenders the first 5 years+.
That's why crowds dwindled. Even at that, they drew 2,700+ at even
the end when they quit. The SPHL can make it with those size crowds.
The owners goals of over 3,000 is a reachable goal.
As to ads in the arena..Its part of the game everywhere..Baseball
parks do the same..The ice is covered when other evens are there..So
you must be just wanting to beef about something(??) Most of our
good fans didn't know the game at first..Go to a few games and give it a chance..Even you may pick up on it and decide to like it..

SlapShot2
0
Points
SlapShot2 10/22/10 - 03:33 pm
0
0
Hockeyman, I said I was going

Hockeyman, I said I was going to be there with my family as we try to support lots of things in the community. It wasnt negative statement I was making. I was just stating it like it is. You dont have to believe me but my point does make sense. There are not enough true hockey fans in the area that go based off of wins and loses. The casual fan will need more than hockey so its not about wins. Its about having a good time out. If they can make it fun people will come back. To think the greenjackets stadium and the JBA are prerfect good venues is funny too. Dont be bitter because others dont appreciate your sport.

pommom38
1496
Points
pommom38 10/22/10 - 04:10 pm
0
0
Slap, I don't think hockey is

Slap, I don't think hockey is referring to you..
I understand all your points and they are valid. My comment is solely in reference to them seeking a sold out crowd. Just isn't going to happen. Now, if opening weekend was a week or so ago, or even next week, the turn out would be plentiful. (Maybe)
I do still believe that even with minor leagues, win vs loss is going to matter! The casual fan is NOT going to attend solely to watch the sport. Who the heck wants to see your home team getting beat all the time??

iceplayer
0
Points
iceplayer 10/22/10 - 05:34 pm
0
0
Believe it or not hockey is

Believe it or not hockey is good for Augusta. Ice hockey reaches far beyond the James Brown Arena.

It helps the downtown businesses on game nights.

On non-game nights it helps the youth of the area. These players are going to help local kids learn the sport.

In the first few years of the Lynx, the local youth hockey program had about 300 kids playing ice hockey. A lot of others were also ice skating. That helped other businesses in the CSRA. The last few years of the Lynx, the players did not. Look at the consequences.

Some of the former youth players are now playing ice hockey in college. Others youth players play throughout the US and Canada. It is amazing how far Augusta hockey extends in this country. Even some of the former Augusta youth ice hockey coaches would surprise you with their talent and knowledge. It rivals even the North.

Plus, we should welcome the athletes that come to play for the RiverHawks. It is rare you hear of hockey players getting into trouble with the law. Yes, it happens but not nearly at the rate of other sports. They are true role models.

Hockey brings dedication and discipline. These players on the RiverHawks will help our community. They will be much more visible and helping than the players under the last Lynx management. It will be like the first few years.

In return, the new management is already doing things for the fans. When was the last time hockey management gave to the community? It has been years since there was true entertainment. Now it is back.

Come out and see the RiverHawks or just come out to see the entertainment and learn a world-wide sport. Either way, just come out.

Supporting the RiverHawks is supporting the CSRA.

humbleopinion
0
Points
humbleopinion 10/22/10 - 06:27 pm
0
0
I have to agree with

I have to agree with Hockeyman....It IS about wins and losses. Too many people these days are "fair weathered fans". It holds true in all sports from high school to college to professional. It is especially true of racing fans. How many people rave about their driver when they are the champion or are in contention, but who cheers for the unknown drivers that finish 20th to 40th every week? I grew up in the midwest and loved hockey there and we went to many Lynx games. We're not able to make it tonight, but we will make it to 15 to 20 games for sure!!!!

SlapShot2
0
Points
SlapShot2 10/23/10 - 02:18 am
0
0
Thats fine that you guys dont

Thats fine that you guys dont have to agree with me and I can accept it. My family and I went tonight along with another 1500 people. With that kind of support it wont last and overall it wasnt a good show. It didnt seem like an event and that what it need to feel like. My goodness the return of hockey to the city and it wasnt an event ppos on the management. The paper was a saying sellout and i saw more people at Wal-Mart today.

Back to Top

Top headlines

Board rejects fine arts charter school

Organizers behind a proposed fine arts charter school in Columbia County said they are optimistic state officials will approve their plan to open a school in 2015 - a plan that was unanimously ...
Search Augusta jobs