People have been gasping in despair at the Mohegan Sun event dropping off this fall’s Built Ford Tough Series schedule. It’s one of only two events in the Northeast this year (unless you count the Times Square demonstration event), and bull riding fans here are STARVING!
But all is not lost. Now the Connecticut event is at the XL Center (formerly the Civic Center) in Hartford, on the same weekend: Oct. 7-9. The question is, Why?
Sure, more than a million people live in Hartford, it’s easy to get there by public transportation, and visitors have a choice of places to stay. (There also are a lot of other sporting events available, but let’s leave out the competition for a moment.)
Here’s the “but”: at the Mohegan Sun event I attended, the 12,000 seat venue wasn’t filled on championship Sunday–and that’s with a captive casino audience. The XL Center’s capacity is between 15,500 and 16,500, depending on which sport is there. Even if you block out 4,000 seats for dirt and bull pens and chutes, that’s still a stretch. And it’s gotta happen three times in one weekend.
So I’m putting it out here: All you bull riding fans in the Northeast, start gearing up for a road trip. Let’s put butts in the seats. I’m serious: I’ll be driving up from NYC. With enough people we can rent a van. Or a bus. And get a group discount on tickets.
Fan Club tickets go on sale tomorrow, June 15–but the event’s not listed on the Center’s website yet.
Personally, I think that’s not a good sign–but what do I know? I only worked in the rock business for about a dozen years, dealing with venues and tours, guarantees and gates and break-even points. If I were somebody at the PBR, I’d have started hollering at the promoter yesterday.
And let’s talk about the Touring Pro Division: only ONE Northeast event this year (Bridgeport, Connecticut), unless you count the three Pennsylvania events. Why does Pennsylvania get three, but New York, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island get none? In all those states, I know where the fans are hiding, and who can become new fans (especially in Massachusetts and upstate New York).
No more Worcester date? Yeah, because the sales weren’t good. The location is perfect; the market for bull riding is surrounding that city, yet there weren’t enough people in the stands. Why?
It’s got nothing to do with how much media attention the sport gets. It’s got nothing to do with an international or national marketing strategy. It’s a local issue. “Think globally, act locally” is a slogan applied to environmental campaigns, and guess what? It works. Rivers get cleaned up, polluters get fined, supermarkets sell recyclable bags.
That same philosophy applies to bull riding. A grassroots effort would fill those seats. But for that, you need someone on the ground. Someone who knows the territory. Someone who knows what goes on in those communities. Someone who goes out and talks to people about bull riding, and who talks to the people in the seats at events.
That would be me, but who am I to toot my own horn?
Actually, I think I will. Here goes:
I know where the Brazilians in Massachusetts live and work. I know which colleges in New York could yield hundreds of bull riding fans, and which wouldn’t. I know which towns in Rhode Island are ripe for the picking. I know about under-the-radar media and organizations and local businesses that could deliver ticket buyers. I know events and clubs and bars and vacation hangouts where bull riding fans and potential fans can be recruited. I can dig into the music business to find fans. I know how to round up people and physically get them to events. I know how to reach female bull riding fans. (There are thousands of us!) And I wouldn’t need to spend thousands of dollars to hire market research outfits.
I could go on, but you get the idea. I think I’ll offer my services to the PBR.
Can I get an Amen?