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Charlotte Business Journal: Checkers Skating on Thick Ice

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11-18-2012, 09:31 AM
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tarheelhockey
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Charlotte Business Journal: Checkers Skating on Thick Ice

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Originally Posted by Charlotte Business Journal
During the Checkers’ final season in the ECHL, in 2009-10, the team attracted an average of 5,518 fans for each home game. A year later, the team’s first in the AHL, crowds increased to 6,312 per game. Perhaps most encouraging, though, is the attendance gain last season, a sign the Checkers have held on to their new audience. With typical crowds of 6,768 fans per game — 20 percent above the league average — the 2010-11 season represented a 7 percent improvement over the previous season.
...
Kahn and the Checkers have improved attendance and bolstered the standing of the franchise by linking group ticket sales with charitable drives. Major backers include Husqvarna, Presbyterian Hospital, Wells Fargo, Time Warner Cable, Coke and Hyndai. The agreement with Time Warner helped the Checkers land a TV outlet, with 12 games airing on digital channel 520.
...
... the [NBA] Bobcats and Checkers staged a day-night doubleheader for the first time last season and will increase that to twice in 2012-13.

Industry experts say the franchise looks like it can have a successful run as a member of the AHL. The league's franchises generate annual revenue in the range of $3 million to $6 million each. Ticket prices range from $15 to $100 each. Most prices stayed the same from a year ago, though the cheapest seats increased from $12 to $15 and center ice tickets went to $33 from $25.

I see three big factors that are driving the team's success:

1) An owner who is serious about turning the organization into a player. The Checkers compete for sports dollars against the NFL, NBA, AAA baseball, a major NASCAR presence and a PGA event. Minor-league hockey could get buried very easily, so it takes some vision and hustle to thrive.

2) A very healthy alliance with the Hurricanes. Charlotte and Raleigh generally don't coordinate on sports allegiances, but the hockey teams have managed to link fanbases very effectively. The Hurricanes played an exhibition in Charlotte last preseason, and the Checkers will play a regular season game in Raleigh in January. Time Warner Cable, a major sponsor of both teams, broadcasts common channels in both markets so Hurricanes fans will see those 12 Checkers games. The Checkers are usually involved in Hurricanes marketing events, and tickets are included in STH packages. The whole relationship has been well managed and has generated a lot of support between the fanbases.

3) A long-term fanbase that supported the Checkers' ECHL franchise for 15 years and is rooted in multi-generational support of minor league hockey going back to the 1950s. I remember a lot of anxiety around the Checkers' initial attempt to jump to the AHL in the mid/late 1990s. There was a concern that the fans wouldn't jump with them and increased prices would kill the market. It would appear that core support has galvanized since then, allowing the team to focus on the group sales strategies and slight price increases mentioned in the article.

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11-18-2012, 11:03 AM
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It's interesting that they have apparently managed to make the Raleigh/Charlotte association work. Looking from a distance with Charlotte now being a 'major league' town and largest most important hub in the state (actually entire Carolinas) you would think the farm team of a 'lesser' in state city could be a tough sell but it looks like they have found at the very least a workable niche.

Coyotes to Charlotte thread in 3... 2... 1...

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11-18-2012, 11:38 AM
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Also, the move to the AHL has coincided with the continuing influx of northern transplants to the area. The higher level of hockey does make a big deal. For my first stint in Charlotte 5 years ago, I was here for a season and a half while they were in the ECHL. I went to two games. I've been back for one season plus the beginning of this one, all in the AHL, and I've already been to 8 games. It's much more interesting to go.

Charlotte is really a big league town, with the right promotions people as in any smaller city. It could support an NHL team as well as, if not better than, Raleigh (although I don't think there should be two teams in the state).

As for minor league sports, I hope the fan support continues when the Knights (AAA baseball) finally move downtown in the next few years. They're currently in just an awful location. The funds and plan to build the new stadium have all been approved and it's moving forward.

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11-18-2012, 12:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CoolForumNamePending View Post
It's interesting that they have apparently managed to make the Raleigh/Charlotte association work. Looking from a distance with Charlotte now being a 'major league' town and largest most important hub in the state (actually entire Carolinas) you would think the farm team of a 'lesser' in state city could be a tough sell but it looks like they have found at the very least a workable niche.

Coyotes to Charlotte thread in 3... 2... 1...
Well, the Triangle area won't agree with Charlotte being the dominant metro. And the stats agree.

The populations are roughly the same - 1.8M.
Triangle is the education, culture, and government center of NC. Raleigh is the capital of course. UNC, Duke, NC State - 3 elite research universities.
Charlotte is the banking and finance center.
Triangle has more high-tech -- software and biotech.
Charlotte has more commercial and manufacturing industry.
Triangle has the most popular college sports.
Charlotte has the most popular pro sports.

Both have boomed over the last 20 years.

Charlotte's main advantage is it's more unified, with a single central city as the core. Triangle is divided by Raleigh and Durham fighting for bragging rights -- meanwhile Cary (Containment Area for Relocated Yankees) is the richest part of the Triangle and Chapel Hill is culturally important to NC.

Having the 3 top universities in NC right there in the triangle creates a huge alumni base and a lot of political power in the state legislature.


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11-18-2012, 12:21 PM
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^^

Charlotte is more influential than the Triangle on the national and global stage in the business community. It has a presence that Raleigh does not. I'm not discounting the Triangle's reputation in the academic and tech sectors. Just mentioning that there's a reason Charlotte has a higher profile.

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11-18-2012, 12:33 PM
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Originally Posted by scotchex View Post
Well, the Triangle area won't agree with Charlotte being the dominant metro. And the stats agree.

The populations are roughly the same - 1.8M.
Triangle is the education, culture, and government center of NC. Raleigh is the capital of course. UNC, Duke, NC State - 3 elite research universities.
Charlotte is the banking and finance center.
Triangle has more high-tech -- software and biotech.
Charlotte has more commercial and manufacturing industry.
Triangle has the most popular college sports.
Charlotte has the most popular pro sports.

Both have boomed over the last 20 years.

Charlotte's main advantage is it's more unified, with a single central city as the core. Triangle is divided by Raleigh and Durham fighting for bragging rights -- meanwhile Cary (Containment Area for Relocated Yankees) is the richest part of the Triangle and Chapel Hill is culturally important to NC.

Having the 3 top universities in NC right there in the triangle creates a huge alumni base and a lot of political power in the state legislature.
This kind of proves my point... I put 'lesser' in quotes because I am sure there is a bit of competition between the two metros and each one views themselves as the more important/significant.

As far as population goes I didn't know they were roughly the same size... Not that I spent a ton of time looking it up, but any source I found listed Charlotte metro @ 1.7+ million and Raleigh @ 1.1+ million. But I guess that all depends on whether you are looking at PSAs, MSAs or CSAs.

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11-18-2012, 01:22 PM
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Having lived in both, I'd say Charlotte feels more like a small city whereas Raleigh is a really big town. And there are definite advantages/disadvantages to both.

From a sports point of view, Charlotte has the "city" mentality that teams ought to be big-time, successful and interesting before they really command attention. Raleigh has more of a hometown, collegiate loyalty.

While I do think the NHL could survive in Charlotte, in 1997 it would have been up against the still-popular Hornets and the red-hot Panthers brands. It wouldn't have made a lot of sense to inject the NHL into that environment.

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11-18-2012, 03:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tawnos View Post
^^

Charlotte is more influential than the Triangle on the national and global stage in the business community. It has a presence that Raleigh does not. I'm not discounting the Triangle's reputation in the academic and tech sectors. Just mentioning that there's a reason Charlotte has a higher profile.
Depends massively what industry and what "business community" you are talking about. Charlotte isn't more respected in the IT, biotech, or pharmaceutical industries, for example. Or the semiconductor or medical device fields. And remember, academia is big business these days. Duke, UNC, and NC State pull in huge amounts of federal R&D money.

If you are in high-tech then the Triangle has a much higher profile than Charlotte. The Triangle has a critical mass of scientists and engineers that few metros possess. On the other hand, if you are in banking then Charlotte is higher profile.

The Triangle is richer and better educated than Charlotte and growing faster. It's richer due to the concentration of high-skill, high-income jobs in scientific, engineering, and related technical fields.

The educated, high-income populace (along with the large # of northern transplants) is exactly why the NHL chose the Triangle in the first place.

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11-18-2012, 05:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scotchex View Post
The Triangle is richer and better educated than Charlotte and growing faster.
On average, yes. I'm not sure if that's still true if you're looking only at gross numbers.

Basically, Charlotte is starting to have big-city problems and the Triangle isn't. Average income, education and growth rates are harder to sustain as a city gets larger. I don't see the Triangle making any particular effort to stimulate the kind of out-of-control growth that Charlotte experienced in the 1990s and 2000s, which resulted in some very cool amenities along with some very serious community issues.

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11-18-2012, 09:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scotchex View Post
The educated, high-income populace (along with the large # of northern transplants) is exactly why the NHL chose the Triangle in the first place.
The NHL didn't choose the Triangle. Peter Karamanos did.

I should have said the financial sector, would have saved you a lot of typing. Charlotte is the second largest financial center in the United States. The Triangle is one of myriad academic/high tech centers in the country.

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11-18-2012, 09:50 PM
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Quote:
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The NHL didn't choose the Triangle. Peter Karamanos did.
He did indeed. And a long strange trip it was from Hartford to Raleigh. I noticed that post earlier, that "the NHL selected the Triangle" and just kinda shook my head. As if the league ever had a clue what they were doing yet despite themselves, they do get it right from time-time, and Id say NC was a case of the latter. Just give credit where its due, namely Jimmy Rutherford & Peter Karamanos.... and Im thinkin Charlotte would in fact be a great addition. Great for the Canes, Nashville, a return to Atlanta & eventually Virginia.

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11-18-2012, 10:16 PM
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He did indeed. And a long strange trip it was from Hartford to Raleigh. I noticed that post earlier, that "the NHL selected the Triangle" and just kinda shook my head. As if the league ever had a clue what they were doing yet despite themselves, they do get it right from time-time, and Id say NC was a case of the latter. Just give credit where its due, namely Jimmy Rutherford & Peter Karamanos.... and Im thinkin Charlotte would in fact be a great addition. Great for the Canes, Nashville, a return to Atlanta & eventually Virginia.
It should be interesting to see how the experiment in Brooklyn works out. Time Warner Arena has the same problem for hockey that Barclay Center and Key Arena have. Few seats at one end of the ice. The closest section on one side of the rink would be 20 feet above the action and they don't open that section for Checkers games. I don't think we're ever going to have NHL hockey here, but it's something to think about. If the Islanders work out in Brooklyn, it could be impetus for the league to try other places with similar challenges.

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11-19-2012, 03:17 PM
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At the very least, I expect the Hurricanes will continue playing exhibition games in Charlotte and I wouldn't have a problem giving up a home date during the regular season, the way the Checkers are this year.

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11-19-2012, 04:24 PM
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Living in Charlotte and being a big Hurricanes fan since '99, this has been an excellent partnership. The Hurricanes and the sport have both spurred a lot more interest among residents here than ever before, and that includes when the Canes won the cup. I'm seeing more Canes/Checkers decals on cars, people wearing the merchandise outside of games, and more mentions of both teams in the local sports media.

Since the OP brought it up, I'd like to say that I think the "sports rivalry" between Raleigh and Charlotte is starting to die out. The Bobcats brought a preseason game to Raleigh last month which was a sellout. Now granted it was against Miami and most people were there to see LeBron and co. more than anything else but a sellout is a sellout and the Bobcats have since been talking about bringing a regular season game or two to Raleigh. The Hurricanes are likely thinking of a couple of Charlotte dates once this lockout ends and have entertained the thought of holding their training camp here. I was at the preseason game last fall and that was a great turnout for a late rainy Sunday afternoon when the Panthers had just concluded a home game about an hour beforehand. I'm almost positive that is going to become a yearly thing.

I'm actually very confident now that if somehow say the PNC arena were to become temporarily unusable because of roof damage from a tornado or whatever and the Hurricanes were still playing, Charlotte and the TWC arena would welcome them with open arms. Ditto the Bobcats/Checkers in PNC. Before then, I imagine both would have snubbed the other if such a scenario had happened.

The upcoming Checkers game in Raleigh should be a success as well although I think it would do better on a Saturday. But since the arena is also home to NC State hoops and is the main venue in the area for events like concerts, the circus, etc., one can only go with what opens dates exist.

In the current state of things, with the Panthers sucking and the Bobcats slowly trying to make their way out of the basement, this is an excellent time for the Checkers to jump on the marketing train to show sports fans in Charlotte that the Checkers are the best sports dollar in town.

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