Thursday, February 06, 2003
There's little doubt that Austin's first-round home games will be at Chaparral Ice.
Traditionally, the Bats finish up the season with a crushing bus trip, anywhere from 10-15 straight away from Travis County. This year, changes in the rodeo schedule put an end to that insanity. The trade-off? No rink in the first round.
Sure, there are five hundred hardcore fans out there who would gladly drive to Belton or SA. But that's it. And while the standings would have to change a lot for this to happen, what if the first opponent was Laredo? At SBC or Freeman, they'd have more fans than Austin would.
More to the point, I doubt the team feels like paying rent for someone else's building, even if there is availability. With temporary bleachers and other adjustments, Chaparral should accomodate around 1000 bodies.
The bottom line is:
1. With no advance sale time, postseason attendance is historically low.
2. This year, the Bats' numbers are worse than they've ever been.
3. Even when there's 5000 in the building, the majority of those fans are with a group, or there for one-time fun.
4. Many business and some individual season ticketholders let their playoff package slide.
So 1000 may leave out some of those fans who go to every game, but don't buy season tix. On the other hand, it may not. Either way, you'll have more local fans than you would in Belton. And for two or three nights (depending on whether there's a Game 5), the Bats faithful get to create the most hostile, claustrophobic building in the league.
What fans should really wonder about -- even though it's getting ahead of things -- is round two. The last night of the rodeo is Saturday, April 5, which means Austin would start out on the road (as was the case with Bats-Iguanas last year).
I'm not sure this is bad: 2-3-1-1 against Laredo or Odessa (with the first two in their barns) might be better than 2-3-2 (with the first two in Austin). The latter format was no help to the Bats in last year's final, while the former didn't stop 'em against the Buzzards (though the idea is to leave town with a split, not in a 2-0 hole).
Problem is, with indoor football at the Expo Center on April 19 and rumors of another booked event before then, Chaparral or Belton could stay in the picture right up the finals. Stay tuned.
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