In the movie Field of Dreams, a farmer keeps hearing a voice in his head telling him, “if you build it, he will come”. This same voice probably whispers in every junior hockey team’s collective mind. The trick is not to just make them come, but to keep them coming. For the West Kelowna Warriors, the game experience is key in ensuring the long term success of the franchise.
For the junior hockey franchise, there are two components to keeping a solid fan base. The on-ice product and no less important, the game experience.
Generally, it is difficult for a franchise to have a great on-ice product year after year. This is especially true in junior hockey. The player-team relationship lasts, at most, 4 years. Junior hockey is not only a transitional spot for players but for general managers, coaches, and other talented members of the front office.
A great game experience will help smooth out those periods when the team is transitioning from bad to good to great (and, except for a few exceptions, every team will).
Watching a hockey game is the easy part. The hoops you have to jump through to get to your seat, the extracurricular stimulus occurring while you’re watching and the simple act of getting out of the arena all have a lasting impact on the casual fan’s positive or negative impressions.
Whether you are going to a movie, the theater, or any activity that requires you to ultimately interact with a lot of people, there are certain barriers you think through to decide whether the effort is worth the reward.
- Ease and availability of parking
- Purchasing a ticket
- In-game entertainment
For the West Kelowna Warriors, minimizing these barriers will have a positive impact on developing a solid, committed fan base.
Parking at Royal LePage Place is not a problem. It’s free and available in the parking lot to the east, on the roadways surrounding the arena, and in the paved parking lot down by the high school. All parking is within walking distance to the facility and for the most part, easy to navigate. If the arena is full though, you may end up with a bit of a walk. The one shortcoming is that there is not enough parking available for people with disabilities.
Purchasing a ticket
There are a variety of ways to purchase a ticket for the game. For the committed fan, the most cost-effective and easiest way is to buy a season ticket. This option may not for everyone. Game packs are also available that may be more affordable. There are restaurants that will include game tickets as part of a meal promotion.
Single-game tickets can be purchased online. If you have fundamental computer knowledge, this is absolutely the best way to buy a single game ticket. Some franchises add a service charge for this but the Warriors do not. Lastly, you can purchase a ticket at the arena. You can go to the Warriors office before the game and buy them or you can queue up at one of the two ticket windows at game time. The ticket window option can be a bit frustrating just before game time.
There are really two parts to this. The ability to purchase, and the food, the price, and the service.
The ability to purchase will always be a problem at this location. The design is awful. The building was built in 2007 and it probably felt 20 years old the day it opened. This was not a problem the franchise created but will suffer because of it. The team gave up the concession rights in 2016 but got them back a year later. Having a bad set up and not having the ability to manage the impacts of a bad set up are roadblocks for the team to manage this part of the experience.
The Warriors have done some things to try and minimize the impact. They have beer and wine sales in two locations, and pizza, popcorn, and other small snacks in the southeast corner. What they are missing is a coffee bar, because right now you have to queue up in the concession line if you want just a coffee or specialty beverage.
The food, the price, and the service are fine, I guess. It is concession food and for the most part, it’s fairly good and the price is comparable to other venues in the BCHL. The staff does the best they can, working with long lines and a tight kitchen.
However, if the Warriors begin to attract in excess of 1,000 people per game, this will become a real problem.
This is a matter of personal preference. There is too much music for some, not enough for others. The music is too loud, not loud enough. It’s not traditional enough, it’s not more up to date.
For the most part, it is on par with most arenas. The game host is good. Very animated, sometimes a bit too sarcastic but works effectively to keep the crowd in the game.
For a few months last season, there were no 50/50 tickets being sold. The absence of a 50/50 draw was a glaring issue and thankfully the Warriors brought it back later in the season.
The sound system is good. The pregame activities are above average. The mascot is effective and readily available for younger fans to interact with.
The between period entertainment is pretty standard fare. The first period entertainment is hit and miss and the frisbee toss has been a long-time tradition for the second period intermission.
The biggest thing missing is video. In this day and age, the absence of that one component will always be a limiting factor of the in-game experience in this facility.
What does it all mean?
With everything else being relatively equal to other facilities, the problems with the concession and not having a video board brings does make the casual fan think twice before heading out to the game, especially if the team is in transition.
The addition of a video board, a little more work on the between period entertainment, and improvements to the concession experience are a big step in improving the in-game experience. In its present form, “it has been built; they came but they probably won’t stay” when the team is struggling.
In Trail, the new owners worked with the city to make changes to enhance the in-game experience and in four years they have doubled attendance from 1,000 to 2,000 per game. No doubt the team has been much better over that time but the enhancement of the game experience has clearly helped.
The success of a team will always be a big part in determining success at the box office but with a few changes, the in-game experience can help to smooth out the parts during a season when the team is struggling.