Stingrays look to ramp up fan support from the past

Stingrays look to ramp up fan support from the past
Source: Frank Ziemba
Source: Frank Ziemba

NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Hockey fans are headed to the North Charleston Coliseum for game five in the second round of the Kelly Cup Playoffs.

This is like the Stanley Cup playoffs in the NHL but for minor league hockey, specifically the ECHL.

It's the farthest the South Carolina Stingrays have gotten in the playoffs in nearly five years, but attendance and fan support isn't what it used to be since the start in 1993.

"The guys are playing their best hockey of the year," Rob Concannon, President of the South Carolina Stingrays, said.

The best hockey is right; the team took Game 7 in the 1st Round of the playoffs in comeback fashion last week, winning 3-2.

The Stingrays have won three championships since they hit the ice in 1993.

Over the years though, attendance has dropped by the thousands.

"We've made some strides the past couple of years," Concannon said. "Playoffs are different. With the quick turnaround of the playoffs it doesn't give us a lot of time to market the games."

There's been talk of the club losing its appeal.

In January, the North Charleston City Council approved spending up to $250,000 per year to cover some of the team's expected financial losses over the next two years.

Hard core fans say even though the city government is picking up the tab once paid by hockey fans, they want to see the Coliseum packed as it was in the past.

Season ticket holder Deborah Morris wouldn't miss a game, "I've never been anywhere else, where it's just so exciting. It's an adrenaline rush, the excitement you feel just being there, it's just so much fun. If we lost them it would just be heartbreaking."

"It's more about the entertainment, more about the value of the dollar, and we've provided great entertainment," Concannon added.

That includes activities for fans during intermission, as well as plenty of fun during the games, as well as the staple for the team.

"Cowbell," David Morris, a season ticket holder, said. "By far the cowbell. No other place will you find that you can make so much noise."

"Keep the team, just add a little bit of more fun to it," Darrell, who lives in the area said.

"If they give it an opportunity, and they come out to a game, they'll be hooked on it," Concannon added.

That's what the Morris family did. The born and bred Charleston family went to their first game three years ago as part of a church outing, and immediately were hooked.

They say not only is it a great experience being there, but the players give back to their fans.

"Not only are we winners on the ice, but also out in community," Concannon said.

According to the Internet Hockey Database last season the average attendance during a regular season home game was nearly four-thousand fans.

Ten years ago just over five-thousand were turning out for those home games.

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