RiverHawks' future remains in doubt

Another season isn't guaranteed

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The next two months could be crucial to the Augusta RiverHawks in more ways than one.

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The team ranks last in the SPHL in attendance. Owner Bob Kerzner says a lease extension with the arena hinges on an increase in ticket sales.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
The team ranks last in the SPHL in attendance. Owner Bob Kerzner says a lease extension with the arena hinges on an increase in ticket sales.

While the Augusta RiverHawks fight for playoff contention, team owner Bob Kerzner has remained in contact with the staff of James Brown Arena about a lease extension, but has yet to commit beyond this season.

Kerzner said he recently spoke to arena general manager Monty Jones Jr. and has maintained contact regarding an extension on the team’s lease, which ends after the season. However, a new deal to extend the team’s time in Augusta hasn’t been put on the table.

“We’ll see what happens in February and March,” Kerzner said. “We’ll have to evaluate whether to proceed with the program after that. We can have an agreement drawn up like a snap. We see eye-to-eye. We just have to get more people in the building.”

Kerzner cited a lack of attendance as a factor in the evaluation. The RiverHawks rank last in the SPHL in attendance, averaging 1,811 per game, almost 100 fewer than the next highest. In comparison, Columbus ranks sixth at 2,267 per game, while Knoxville leads at 3,323.

Attendance rose in the second season after a first-year average of 1,637, hitting a high last year at 1,902. However, attendance has leveled off this year, and it has ranked last in the league every year.

“We need to average 2,300 the rest of the way,” Kerzner said. “Right now, we’re at 550 season tickets and packages, and we need 850. If everyone can bring one friend, add one person to the list, we would get there. We’re anxious to see how it goes.”

Heather Menard, a three-year season-ticket holder, said more advertising would be beneficial to bringing fans to the arena.

“There’s still an awful lot of people who don’t know we have hockey here,” she said. “We’ll spread the word and people say, ‘Wait, there’s a hockey team here?’”

Menard, who works as the administrator for the Fort Gordon spouses Facebook page, said that while attendance has been disappointing this season, tickets are quickly grabbed up when offered or advertised at her site, and more are often requested.

“Social media is definitely the best way,” she said. “For those that don’t, and the older crowd, there’s commercials, advertising. Something will have to be done.”

Tim Hathaway, a season-ticket holder for the first time this year, mirrored Menard’s observation on tickets being requested.

“I drag as many as I can, but when I mention the RiverHawks, people are always wanting to go,” he said.

Kerzner said the team has to get closer to breaking even, which hasn’t happened.

“I can’t keep opening my wallet like I have,” he said. “We’re not at break even. I can’t keep losing around $250,000.”

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wildman
1072
Points
wildman 01/28/13 - 05:42 am
3
2
Hockey will

never make it in Augusta for the long haul. One reason is the arena and it's location. I for one am not interested. Those that like it I hope it stays and you enjoy it but for me, no thanks. I have tried it and don't like it. Give me college football any day.

Riverman1
82168
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Riverman1 01/28/13 - 06:07 am
5
3
Move it to North Augusta.

Move it to North Augusta.

ColCo
703
Points
ColCo 01/28/13 - 07:31 am
3
1
Hockey in the south

Atlanta lost hockey, Greenville lost hockey, Augusta has lost hockey before. Hockey's tv ratings in markets across the south are abysmal. The problem is not the advertising, the owner, the team or the location, it's the sport. Most of us didn't grow up with it, we've never played it and are just not interested.

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 01/28/13 - 07:58 am
2
1
I had a solution

But Riverman beat me to it.

BTW: Any word on the progress of the Pedestrian Bridge from Augusta to North Augusta's new stadium. ☺ it is sure to bring business to downtown ☺

No longer WIJG.
Have JG has been found, joined, moving within 6 months.

MTJG<6

OpenCurtain
10049
Points
OpenCurtain 01/28/13 - 08:15 am
4
0
How about

demolishing the 30+ year JB Arena and rebuilding it over behind the Marriott?

This makes River Front LLC happy.

Then build 1500 - 2500 apartment units where the former JB arena was?

This makes a few PRO-Apartment zoning commissioners happy.
This also increases the number of Downtown voters... more federal aid $$$ to spend that the fed does not have.

GnipGnop
11839
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GnipGnop 01/28/13 - 08:36 am
5
1
Well for starters you have to...

put a product on the ice that will win. The reason the lower attendance this year is because the team is just not very good. When the Lynx were here and were putting a winning team on the ice they were averaging 5000 fans. As they were sold and the new owners tried to save money the teams were worse and the fans went away. The Riverhawks are in last place and are losing their top players to other leagues.....doesn't spell very well for the future of hockey here.

vickidu52
15
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vickidu52 01/28/13 - 11:15 am
5
0
We won before but nobody came

If people would come on down they would enjoy this regardless. The concessions have dropped their process. Popcorn is better. Cheap beer nights for those who enjoy, or even mixed bar, Chick-fil-a, Dominoes pizza, funnel cakes, etc. One thing I see this year more are some blacks in the audience which hasn't been that prevalent in the past but it is a very physical sport, fast-paced and not just for the red neck white guy! More and more kids from our area are starting teams up and it could grow in the south if we let it. I love football, basketball, but hockey has taken over as our favorite to go to. The team would be a community loss as well. They rent apartments, shop, as well as visit the hospitals in the area. I see kids every game running up to players who hold hockey clinics for them. Jersey sales and other events raise charitable funds as well. All Augustans would enjoy hockey night and we invite you all to come view the excitement. Our team fights to the end and even though the end result may not get our win, we go home entertained and ready to come back for more.

pommom38
1496
Points
pommom38 01/28/13 - 11:32 am
4
1
Sorry

Gnip, your comment doesn't hold water for either team.
RiverHawks had two winning seasons and attendance was lackluster, the Lynx were not getting any better numbers.
Face it, they are gone after this season.
1. Kerzner has attempted THREE teams in different areas, ALL failed
2. Attendance has never been over 2000 in any of those
3. Brings back SAME people everytime, hence produce same results
I'll miss it, but it is what it is.

itsanotherday1
41909
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itsanotherday1 01/28/13 - 11:45 am
4
0
Vickie

You are correct about the kids. I think this is where they've missed the boat, getting kids involved. It is a hard hitting fast paced sport that keeps their attention. My DIL is a 4th grade teacher and says many of her students would be delighted to go. RH manangement says free ticket redemption is 10%, but I wager it would be higher if given out to schools. The Lynx had the old blades for grades program which seemed to be a success.
Just think of the tens of thousands of middle school age kids within 1 hr of the JB. They could give away several hundred per night and never get to all of them. If the kids get excited about it, they will come back with mom and dad, paying the next time, and maybe bringing a playmate.

Oh, and ditch Kenny Bobby. That act is enough by itself to turn people off from coming back. I haven't met one fan that likes him. I'm sure the person doing it is a nice guy and I don't mean to offend him; but the act STINKS!

GnipGnop
11839
Points
GnipGnop 01/28/13 - 12:38 pm
3
1
you are wrong pom...

people still feel burned by the Lynx...research the numbers...I have.

1998-99 Avg Attendance 5443
1999-00 Avg Attendance 4767
2000-01 Avg Attendance 4468
2001-02 Avg Attendance 2794
2002-03 Avg Attendance 3836
2003-04 Avg Attendance 2980
2004-05 Avg Attendance 3090
2005-06 Avg Attendance 2843
2006-07 Avg Attendance 2557
2007-08 Avg Attendance 2835
2008-09 Avg Attendance 2722
In 11 Years the overall average was around 3500. That's twice what the Hawks are drawing. I am a fan and have missed only a handful of games and even traveled out of town to see them. I love the team and don't want to see them leave. You won't fill seats with the product you have now. The head coach that had the team at the beginning of the season was horrible and traded or cut 2 fan favorites.

philsreel
26
Points
philsreel 01/28/13 - 01:14 pm
0
4
Get your team out of Augusta

Get your team out of Augusta and don't look back.

resident
483
Points
resident 01/28/13 - 02:34 pm
4
0
Keep Hocky

There are people that support it. Social Media is a crap place to advertise......Stop making people use this junk...So here is my half cent..They can build attendance...lower the price for military..not bulk but overall period...Student discounts...Better interaction with fans...Not Kenny Bobby which seems to end in the same place all of the time...ADVERTISE outise of social media...Radio, Television...and I don't mean at 2AM when nobody hears or sees it. Table space for vendors or non-profits should be free...Show some community spirit for crying out loud...Visit schools and show the kids how fun it can be...Those of you squaking about football....You had a team and blew it!!!!! How about the arena upgrading their cacility a bit...Restrooms still stink...The seats are old and nasty with sticky floors....Facility should have public parking instead of the $5 charge..This can drive people away..I know it does me for alot of events.....Concession stands could have friendlier people for sure...There is plenty of blame and I can certainly say things from the outside looking in but this is what I see. Involve the team with the public...Open up practice....Open the office so fans can feel like they are in touch with their team!!!!!

hockeymann
226
Points
hockeymann 01/28/13 - 04:08 pm
1
0
I've supported it with two

I've supported it with two season tickets for all 11 years with the Lynx, and now for three years with the RiverHawks. I hope somehow the RiverHawks will be able to survive this, but I doubt it. Mr. Kerzner apparently would pre-
fer to blame the folks here for things, rather than where much of it belongs,
which is the current management of the RHawks, and the poor state of the JB Arena, which is easily, the very worst in the SPHL by far. Current
mgmt. has refused to prospect much of the old Lynx base, apparently
thinking hockey fans will just show up at the box office. Even ads will not
hardly reach the old base, many of whom are still out there. This should
have been done three years ago when Kerzner & Giles Richard(GM) began. No real prospecting was done. Those charged with it were not familiar with the old base, and the Lynx made off in the dead of night with
our ticket & ad monies, along with their records of ticketbuyers.
Now, we have the worst team in the league. The current GM is doing
both that and the coaching job, after a record of failure in Florence and
Winston-Salem. Things went down when Brad Ralph left, and we were no
longer able to attract enough quality players. Continued poor work in the
front office keeps us from attracting many of the former Lynx' base of
ticketbuyers. Now, they want the current season ticket buyers to face an
increase in price again if they failed to renew with deposits in December
of '12, instead of April as in years past. That will probably thin out the current base even more as fewer renew, while the front office wonders why(?) It's a shame, because Bob Kerzner is a nice guy as owner, and he has put a lot into it here. I have to admit, we didn't draw well the past
two years with a solid winner, because we didn't really work on that old Lynx base. It isn't likely to improve at all with a team drifting further into
last place. Don't dare criticize the front office though, as I did. They do not like critics. We still have a good core of great fans, but Mr. Kerzner
and his front office are going to have to admit to mistakes, and involve
the public, as the previous poster or two stated. It will not happen waiting for the public to walk up to the box office
Want to see how a good team(s) operate in the SPHL?...Check out the
Knoxville, Fayetteville, & Columbus franchises...Also check out those same arenas, all of which are better than ours in every way..Good sound
system in all sections, great scoreboards over the ice with big screens,
use of spotlights, and some with free parking and cheaper concessions.
If Kerzner moves, I hope it's to Columbia, where they had a good base,
and lost the team due to the U. Of SC not treating them properly.
An earlier poster suggested N. Augusta. That'll never work either with only 900 garaged parking spaces at a probably premium price there too.
Columbia County was the best option, and Ron Cross dropped the ball
there after winning the straw vote.
To the other poster, Greenville has been back in the ECHL now for the past three years. Great arena brought it back to life there.

GnipGnop
11839
Points
GnipGnop 01/28/13 - 05:28 pm
1
0
I agree

Been to Columbus a few times...great arena (horrible sound system though) but very fan friendly. I love the way they involve the fans even had a shirt off the players back give away. Also been to the P'Cola arena. Crowded and noisy and setup for hockey. 2 Great arenas!!

akmoose
119
Points
akmoose 01/28/13 - 06:29 pm
1
0
Somebody didn't listen

I never told the writer, David Lee, that I worked at Fort Gordon. What I SAID was that I was an administrator for the Fort Gordon Spouse's FACEBOOK page and that was in reply to him mentioning Bob's suggestion of each person telling one person who tells another so I said with me posting it on the facebook page I reach over 700 people at a time.
I also said that MWR gets a batch of tickets but for some reason, they are gone before I can even let those spouses know. Not sure if actual fans are getting them but I know the folks on the Fort Gordon Spouse's Page are chomping at the bit for them.

akmoose
119
Points
akmoose 01/28/13 - 07:46 pm
1
0
itsanotherday1

Yes, the guy that does Kenny Bobby IS a nice guy, in fact a wonderful guy...and as far as one fan that likes him...now you've met one...and my husband, and my 20yr old daughter, and her 23yr old boyfriend, and my parents, and my fellow admin/friend Cody, and everyone else we've brought with us to games. He gets the kids involved and lets them have fun and join him on the ice, he gets the military people involved, he shows tons of respect for them and they all have a blast with him...he brings fun and energy.

GnipGnop
11839
Points
GnipGnop 01/28/13 - 09:58 pm
0
0
One more thing....

the 5 dollars to park is a joke...I could understand 2 bucks but 5 for a parking lot that doesn't even have a guard?

PentaBalls
2
Points
PentaBalls 01/28/13 - 11:45 pm
0
1
ColCo

your incorrect Greenville SC has a hockey team. The reason why Augusta fails plain and simple.. location location location.. Who wants to go downtown..

Sean Moores
187
Points
Sean Moores 01/29/13 - 12:39 pm
0
0
@ akmoose 5:29

We will fix that. Thanks.

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