St. Louis Blues Must Be Careful Not To Exclude Average Fans

The St. Louis Blues have done well in their history to feel like an all-inclusive franchise that cared about every fan. They are starting to teeter on the edge of that, however.

Regardless of our status in life – rich or poor, old or young – being a fan of the St. Louis Blues has always evened us out on the playing field. However, the upgrades to the Enterprise Center are starting to tip the balances.

The Blues are doing what they feel is right and, more times than not, their marketing research is correct. These new, fancier spaces will lead to more revenue streams, I have no doubt.

The first wave of changes to the arena were fine, for the most part. Some were invisible to fans, such as locker room updates. Others were front and center, like updated concession stands.

Phase two is a little more troubling, as a very middle-class fan. Reading about all the new perks, it just feels like the average fan is not being considered.

From a marketing and PR standpoint, the franchise is using all the right buzzwords. Gathering spaces and socializing sound so warm and fuzzy. The problem is, and I realize I am becoming the minority, not everyone goes to games to socialize. In fact, socializers are often a big distraction to those watching the game.

Now, let me make a clear distinction – nobody goes to a game and sits there and stares at the ice. We all talk to our friends or significant others during the game. However, when I think of people socializing, the ones that stick out are the ones clearly not even watching the game whatsoever.

St. Louis FC games are some of the worst for this. I love soccer and I support the team, but more games than not my wife and I are surrounded by people literally turning in their seat to talk. The game is absent and not even visible to the peripheral vision.

That is what I want the Blues to avoid becoming. Fans who bleed blue – sorry for the on the nose pun – want to watch the game and cheer for their team. The distractions of daily life are something we want to avoid. You can socialize anywhere. Why spend hundreds of dollars to do it?

Perhaps that is where I am out of touch. The idea that you buy a ticket to a sporting event and then barely watch the game is foreign to my very core being. But, conversely, the audience these clubs and seats are catering to have more money to burn and it is nobody’s business to tell them how to spend it.

I just hope there is not an increasing divide between fans. Whether the team acknowleges it or not, there is a distinct divide between lower and upper bowl fans. I’m not here to perpetuate that, but to think it does not exist is folly.

The Blues care about all their fans, but like children or pets, there are favorites. The team, for all its marketing genius, forgets they have fans in Jefferson County or further out. When was the last time there was a player meet-and-greet or autograph signing somewhere other than St. Louis or West County?

There are just as many Blues fans in those outlying areas and perhaps more. I used to work at a store in DeSoto and was amazed how many Blues fans there were, because the perception is hockey is only for the areas right around the city and main county. Those same fans have as much, if not more passion for the team. They simply can’t always afford to go, so the team doesn’t cater to them.

Additionally, as much as our love for the Blues is equal, the team itself has a bad habit of already catering to wealthier fans. When a ticket to a roast of Darren Pang costs as much as some make in a couple days, it becomes unrealistic to attend events that all want to go to but only a few can afford.

My hope is that the arena does not fall down that same path. These new clubs are great for those that can afford them, but don’t forget about the other fans as well.

By decreasing your total seat numbers, you put extra value on those that can afford the more expensive seats. Pro sports are bad enough as it is to where a family might have to save up a long time just to afford one game per season. We need to be careful not to exclude that family all together.

The arena upgrades are great, and until the season starts, there is little reason to think they won’t be successful in their goals. You just wonder when the cutoff will be. The fewer regular seats there are, the fewer fans overall will be coming in.

Revenue is important, there is no doubt of that. I just don’t want to see Blues games become a sporting version of Jurassic Park with the PR staff being Donald Gennaro smirking and saying “We’ll have a coupon day or something.”

The excitement of being there makes the games. Don’t make regular season games like the Super Bowl where only the casual elite, who sometimes sit on their hands, can get in.