Archive for February, 2009

More Than a Feeling

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Downtown Rio Rancho. No, really. (Pre-Event Center) 

What say we mix up the formula and start with…

Paul FariasTIMBITS: Albuquerque local (Chicago native) goaltender Paul Farias has signed a 5-day contract with the Scorpions as of Friday, Feb. 6 (after which Scorps goalie Ryan Gibb should return from personal leave).

And as of Feb. 2, the Scorpions are the only team to not have had a game decided in a shootout. Are these two things unrelated? I think not! C’mon boyz! Give the local kid a thrill! Whaddaya say, Paulie?!

And Coach Murph earns #50.

BIT OF A DOWNER: Last month, the Jan. 8 edition of the Albuquerque Journal reported that

Citadel Broadcasting pulled the plug on Scorpions hockey broadcasts for non-payment of contractual broadcast fees.

And thus the remaining games of the season will not be broadcast on the radio.

Average attendance at a Scorpions game is approximately a third of what it was before the team moved from Albuquerque to middle-of-nowhere, Rio Rancho. A Rio Rancho resident recently described it to me this way: that it doesn’t help that the arena is situated in a pit of sorts, making it impossible to see from surrounding areas. No bright lights beckoning Albuquerque – or even Rio Rancho residents – to check out the excitement.

Rio Rancho built it, but they don’t come.

At the beginning of the season, Scorpions team staff promised that unlike last season, there would be monthly media lunches. There hasn’t been one since. Makes the team easy for Albuquerque media to ignore.

Are these some of the signs of a folding team? I’m guessing they might well be. And while the significant financial burden isn’t as great as it would be with only one owner rather than the Phoenix Five, in the two-and-a-half seasons the team has played in Rio Rancho, there are precious few signs of improvement. Thus the Albuquerque Journal reported Jan. 29,

Scorps co-owner Dave Ellett told the Journal that negotiations have begun to sell the team.

Who’d be crazy enough to part with the kind of money it takes to run a team that can’t fill seats?

Perhaps, as that same article mentions, the team will simply move on:

While a New Mexico move is not out of the question — the current owners have first crack at putting a team in Tempe, Ariz. — it’s not quite that simple. The CHL would have to give its blessing to take a team out of this market (one of the league’s biggest) and relocate it….

When the team moved to Rio Rancho, it left behind a loyal fan base of 3,000 or so. On a good Saturday, the Scorpions could draw about 6,000, occasionally hitting 8,000 at Tingley Coliseum. Rather than phasing out its marketing to the Albuquerque fan while it tried to build a new, Rio Rancho fan base, the team simply stopped marketing to Albuquerque altogether, assuming Rio Rancho would readily adopt the team as its own.

It didn’t. Who knows why. Plenty of kids in Rio Rancho play hockey. Apparently that doesn’t translate into wanting to see the Scorpions play. But believe me, there’s nothing else to do in Rio Rancho, where the sidewalks roll up at 10 PM on weekends.

Now, the team draws under 3,000 on its very, very best Saturday, not including the nights it gives away tickets to kids and causes, when it tends to put on a hellofa show. And the games aren’t on the radio. And there aren’t media lunches to encourage local media outlets to report on the team – maybe generate some interest. And the team is having a losing season.

Duke City Derby - yeah!END OF AN EXPERIMENT: Alas, we might have to get our crash-n-bang fix catching the Duke City Derby travel team, the Munecas Muertas, at the Arena. (If you’re interested, its season begins April 25 and runs through September 19, including seven doubleheaders.)

Either way, this is small beans compared to a flurry of rumors that the entire CHL could be on its last edge. That same Jan. Journal article says:

To be fair, the Scorpions are far from the only team in the CHL seeing a decline at the gate.
       This is a league-wide trend. The CHL was averaging over 4,300 fans in the Scorps’ first season in Rio Rancho, which was 2006-07. It was 3,979 last season and is down to 3,699 through last weekend’s games.

Apparently, the additional arena operation dealio isn’t working out so well. Evidence the Jan. 17 issue of the Rio Rancho Journal, which reported that the Star Center has broken its association with Global Entertainment (the corporation that builds and manages several event centers throughout the CHL and is the parent company of the League) due to mismanagement. They aren’t the only ones frustrated with Global.

THINGS COULD BE WORSE: You wanna be able to say you play for the fun of it and not just to win, particularly if it’s just high school sports, but enough is enough. Still, it did the Academy team owner Mark Cuban‘s suite for a Dallas Mavericks game.