what if there is no NBA this season?

I had an interesting message today……The Rat City Rollers in Seattle are doing very well in Key Arena, crowds of 5000 to 7000 for their games.   Well we all know that, but my correspondent said it was because the Sonics had left town.

Well, certainly that helped, but people don’t pay $15 to $40 to come out and watch something because their basketball team has left.  The league has done a great job of presenting the game well, making the fans happy and creating a great family atmosphere.

So what if the NFL and/or the NBA sits out the next season?  People will be looking for sports and I think we have one that may fill the bill.  Well, the NFL has been resolved;  the NBA may not be.

What is interesting is that Roller Derby as a national sport could probably be sustained by just one of the high salaries these players get.  But don’t feel too sorry for Derby as they seem to be taking things into their own hands.

Yes, we know that many play in warehouses, or skating rinks, or venues with no fixed seating.  But in the last few years there has quietly been an upswing to better and larger venues.  This coming weekend Assassination City Roller Girls (from Dallas, don’t you love that name?) are playing their first match at the 10,000 seat Fairplex Arena.  So what I did, and this is by no means complete, was to try and get a sample of some of the Arenas that other leagues have also moved up to.

1st Bank Arena

Denver is interesting, the Derby Dolls play in the 7000 seat 1st Bank Arena.  I saw a game there last May and the way that great lighting, sound, and an amazing video playboard enhances the night was wonderful…..The Derby Dolls are presented by a promoter, as is the Champion Rocky Mountain Roller Girls at the Fillmore.  Can’t they play each other at the huge sports arena in Denver?

Kansas City now plays in the  Municipal Auditorium, Cincinnati at the Cincinnati Gardens, Milwaukee at the US Cellular Center, Everett Washington at the Comcast Center, Detroit at Cobo Arena, other leagues at Tucson Convention Center, Veterans Coliseum in Phoenix and State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis;  all venues where we played when we toured (except Everett, but including Key Arena) with Roller Derby when we were looking for 10,000 plus seat facilities.

And Windy City plays in the UIC Pavilion, a beautiful Arena where the National Championships were held.

Municipal Auditorium

Now I know there are dozens more out there, but this is what I got from my instant poll.  And what does this mean?

There is definitely a fan base, and it is growing monthly.  I know many leagues that are selling out their games are afraid to go to a larger venue because of the increased costs and other problems.  But it can and has been done.  And the games are so much better both for the players and the audience in a arena-like setting with good lights, sound and facilities for the customers.  Attendance always increases when you move to a larger venue if you have a good fan base.  Many people do not come out if they do not feel it will be a comfortable evening for them.

Is any of this useful to you?  You might want to use it if you are trying to expand in your market and you want to let either facilities or promoters know about the potential that has been proven in this sport.

UIC Pavilion

The Gotham Girls should be at the Garden or Meadowlands occasionally, The LA Derby Dolls, who sell out their own facility all the time would look great once or twice at Staples Center, St Louis should play at the Arena, Houston in the Arena, Philly Roller Girls in Wells Fargo Center,  the B.A.D. girls at Bill Graham Civic or Oracle Arena, and on and on.   Then you have a shot at self-sustaining leagues.

Whatcha think?

let’s rent a barn and put on a show

Those who want to are finding out it isn’t so easy.  There are a number of leagues who have outgrown their venues, but are finding it very difficult and expensive to take the next step…..I would like to help, and I just found out today that the Philly Roller Girls will be playing 4 times in a great venue in that town with an introduction from me to a great producing company.  Of course it wasn’t all me;  PRG are a very savvy group and they have the management and marketing and following to make this happen..

Many of the leagues are finding that they are either not well served in  their current skating venues or perhaps they can’t present the games as well as they would like.  Some (Seattle, Arizona, Denver, Chicago, Cincinnati, Minneapolis, etc) have been able to take the next step.

One amazing thing you will learn, is that when you go to a more desirable venue, you automatically upgrade your attraction and will usually attract a larger audience, particularly if you have a good solid promotional and marketing staff, a great following, and good games.

In 1965 we consistently (every week) skated at the Oakland Auditorium, a multi-purpose building from the 1920’s with some parking available and consistently drew 3000 to 4000 fans a week, with an occasionally sell out of 5400.  When the Oakland Coliseum opened in 1965 (can you imagine, a 54,000 seat stadium for the Raiders, a 14,000 seat arena for events such as ours, and an exhibit hall and over 2000 parking spots for $25,000,000!), Bill Cunningham the complex manager coaxed us to come in.  Bill, by the way, had been a popcorn vendor at the old Roller Derby in the armories in New Jersey.

Photo byDora Pete from stock.xchng.com

Well, it was considerably more money, but we had the opportunity to be the 2nd event ever in the Arena, and we drew an amazing 10,000 plus people, so we moved all of our games to the facility now known as Oracle Arena.

There are problems with larger venues: more ticket takers, more ushers, security etc, but if your bottom line is better, then why not.  Also, you have to be sure you can attract a decent sized crowd.   Some of the leagues currently play some of the matches in the smaller venues and then others in the larger.  It is very unsettling to have a crowd of 1500 which might have packed your smaller facility, swallowed in 15,000 seat arena.  Sometime you may just want a medium-sized building that will suit your purpose.  Probably a great example of this is the Everett Washington league skated their first match in the new arena and drew over 3500.  Everett is north of Seattle and not a huge market.

As the years went by, I obviously became better at negotiating with the venues or used a local promoter who could get a better deal and provide many of the services I wanted, including promotion.  And we had a number of arenas buy our tracks and store them between events, based upon the guaranteed number of dates we would give them annually.

There a number of ways to negotiate and I am happy to say I am working with two leagues now.  The larger your appearance in a market, the more desirable you become and the more that fans and families and newcomers will want to come and see you.  An obvious example is New York:  in the late 60’s we rented the new Madison Square Garden (our basic rental $25,000 plus $15,000 “reimbursables”), but all the media came out and suddenly we were a hot new attraction.  Financially, we came out better when we rented the Newcastle Indiana high school gym (at 10,000 seats, the largest high school gym in American), paid $1000 to the school and netted the total receipts.  But not better from a perception status.

There are other things you can do obviously and those who know your market can help you.  This is something the Bob Noxious and I will add to our seminar at Rollercon. And we would discuss when to move to a smaller venue.  Obviously, if you want to contact me, I am available on facebook and at jerry@brownpapertickets.com…….advice is free.