GLENS FALLS — Just as the Adirondack Thunder hope to fill Cool Insuring Arena to the rafters for the upcoming playoff series against Worcester, the organization can take comfort in knowing the regular-season attendance numbers were better than last year.
The Thunder averaged 3,191 fans per game this season (66.6 percent of capacity). That ranked third of six in the North Division, with Worcester (4,393) and Reading (3,431) being higher. More importantly, it’s up from last year’s average of 2,830.
There are a number of reasons why. It obviously starts with putting a good product on the ice. Wins bring ticket sales, but a comparison of this year’s record (41-24-3-4) with last year’s (41-20-7-4) shows little difference. Jeff Mead, the general manager at Cool Insuring Arena, thinks the message got out early that it’s an exciting brand of hockey. The Thunder started their season with a 5-4 home win and kept things interesting throughout the season.
“I think our game-day experience has been a lot better for the fans this year,” Mead said. “The new video board helps. We’re really just trying to have fun.”
Mead also pointed to fans knowing that the team is here long term, not year-to-year anymore, and that it is locally owned helped restore trust and bring more people in.
Then there were the big promotional nights, most of which resulted in the six sellouts — up from three last season — this season.
The sellouts were on Subway Four Pack/Marvel Night (4,843), the annual New Year’s Eve game with two tickets for $20.18 (4,869), Jan. 27: a night with nearly 800 group tickets (4,937), Military Appreciation Night/youth jersey giveaway (5,445), Pucks for Paws Night to support animal rescue (4,829) and Fan Appreciation Night (5,247).
Other big nights included Law Enforcement Appreciation Night, Bill Dineen Night and $1 Beer Night.
“Certainly, when you get 5,000 people in this building, it’s a pretty cool experience, it’s loud. Maybe those people will say, ‘Wow, what an experience’ and come back. It’s really paid off,” Mead said.
Mead added that the group numbers are up tremendously from last year.
The other thing that helped put people in seats were the multiple community appearances. According to Zach Dooley, the director of communications and community relations, there were 87 appearances between players, coaches and staff. Almost every one of those included multiple attendees and lasted at least an hour.
“I really think it helped to show how invested we are in this community,” Dooley said.
Leading the way was head coach Brad Tapper, who said community involvement was a tenet for himself and his players.
“I know the first two years the Thunder were out a lot, but Brad has almost taken it to another level,” Mead said. “Heck, he answered the phone the other day trying to sell a ticket. It was funny, but it’s the guy he is.”
NOTES: The Thunder donated 20 percent of all Game 1 ticket sales through Thursday to the players and families from the recent Humboldt hockey tragedy. On Thursday morning, the Thunder’s Twitter account noted that the amount raised had surpassed the $1,000 mark.