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.”