Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fans Are Slow to Kiel over in Early Going, Capacity Crowds Lacking in Pricey(?) New Building

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Fans Are Slow to Kiel over in Early Going, Capacity Crowds Lacking in Pricey(?) New Building

Article excerpt

As it moves into its second month, Kiel Center still is looking for its first sports sellout.

The 3-week-old building held four professional sporting events in October. Only one was well over half-capacity.

"You'd always love to see more people, don't get me wrong," Kiel Center President Jud Perkins said. "But I don't think we have anything to be embarrassed about. Two concerts sold out, Billy Joel and Eric Clapton. We had about 11,500 for the Frank Sinatra concert which, frankly, was more than we expected.

"Had we had a half-dozen Blues games, you wouldn't be doing this story. We'd have had a sellout for the opener with the Blackhawks and a sellout for the next game with the Rangers, and probably sold out the other ones, too."

The Blues are idle because National Hockey League owners delayed the start of the season.

But with hockey out and the baseball playoffs off due to a players strike, a Kiel Center sports event would seem to be a hot local option.

Instead, 14,153 fans attended the first Kiel sporting event - a National Basketball Association exhibition game between the Chicago Bulls and Washington Bullets on Oct. 14.

An exhibition Friday between the Bullets and NBA runner-up New York Knicks, with hometown favorite Anthony Bonner, drew 11,964.

Kiel seats about 20,000 for basketball and 19,200 for ice events.

A crowd of 7,415 saw the CBS/Nikon Figure Skating Championships on Oct. 24 with three Olympic gold medalists.

Sunday, 8,544 turned out in hockey-starved St. Louis to watch the Blues' farm team, the Peoria Rivermen, play the Cincinnati Cyclones in an International Hockey League game.

Perkins said he has heard mainly from satisfied customers.

"Overwhelmingly, we're getting nothing but compliments," he said. "I make a point to walk all through the building during an event. On a nightly basis, I'll get 10 to 20 fans who stop me and tell me what a wonderful place it is. And these weren't rich people, just fans."

But some fans have complained in Post-Dispatch stories about the price of tickets, parking and concessions. Perkins and his staff continue to insist that the building does not set ticket prices.

The Rivermen, for example, chose to charge $26, $22, $18 and $14 here Sunday. That's roughly double their $12-$10-$8 scale at the Peoria Civic Center.

"We went with half of what the Blues charge," Peoria general manager Denny Cyr said.

Blues seats range from $55 to $30.

Cyr also wondered about the fuss about Rivermen tickets here.

"I think our prices at Kiel are right in line with all the big markets in our league," Cyr said of the IHL. "They're $20 to $30 for the best seats in Detroit and Chicago."

But that wasn't the only reason the Rivermen doubled prices at Kiel.

"If the rent was the same as Peoria," Cyr said, "I'd keep the same prices. It's not worth it to us to come over here if we're not going to make any money. …

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