It was with interest that I read L.W. Oakley's column "Our new centre was rocking" (Feb. 28), regarding the first Kingston Frontenacs game at the K-Rock Centre. Oakley wrote lovingly about the past at the Memorial Centre, and optimistically about the future at the K-Rock Centre.
Oakley wrote from the perspective of someone who "won the day" in the dispute regarding the location of the new facility. He wrote: "The K-Rock Centre is located exactly where it should be." He also wrote about large crowds walking around downtown, meeting friends and spending money in restaurants, stores and hotels. And he wrote: "Gone are the days when a father and son could drive to Kingston from places like Verona or Gananoque and pull into the parking lot behind the rink, pay a dollar to park before watching the game and drive right back home after the game."
I felt he was writing directly to me. I have believed from the beginning that building the new arena downtown was abandoning many of the traditional fans of the team and, I might add, a loyal fan base. No matter how bad the team and its performance, we always saw a solid core of fans at the Memorial Centre.
In my opinion, Frontenacs owner Doug Springer and Mayor Harvey Rosen have chosen to pursue a much different clientele, a more moneyed and well-heeled clientele. We now have luxury suites and the exclusive club seating with special amenities unavailable to the unwashed masses. Many of the old fans simply are not in the same financial league as the clientele Springer and Rosen appear to be courting.
Last year, I could drive in from Yarker, park virtually beside the arena, and go in and watch hockey, all for $11. Today, that same evening will cost me close to $20, what with increased ticket prices, special city surcharges and distant parking. That is roughly an 80-percent increase.
That kind of increase, I believe, is prohibitively expensive to many members of the old fan base. Add a couple of kids and some concession treats and we begin to talk about some serious money for a lot of people.
Oakley writes, "People aren't going to a hockey game at the Memorial Centre anymore. They're coming to an event at a $46.5-million, first-class facility"
He is correct. It feels like the new Frontenacs fan that is being courted is not really interested in hockey per se. Hockey is secondary, almost an afterthought.
I have no doubt that first-class events such as The Tragically Hip and Avril Lavigne concerts will fill the new facility. But the major tenant, the Kingston Frontenacs, do not measure up to that standard, and they haven't for a long time. Small crowds at the Memorial Centre were not a reflection of the arena. They were a reflection of the product on the ice. As Whig-Standard reader Brian Cook wrote in a letter to the editor ("Expect more empty seats," Feb. 28), the Frontenacs will not suddenly see an attendance increase just because they are playing their games in a new building.
In short, I believe Springer and Rosen have abandoned the faithful and are courting an audience that will not buy an inferior product. The "Krock Pot" will attract diminishing hockey crowds as the novelty wears off (5,500 attended game one, 2,300 Game 2 in the new arena). I will try going once or twice, but making the same 35-minute drive to park in a free parking lot, buy a cheaper ticket and see better hockey at Belleville's Yardmen Arena, where the Bulls play, is looking pretty fine to me.