May 28, 2008
The Comets at Reliant

I took Olivia to see the Comets' home opener last night at Reliant Arena. We only stayed for the first half, which is going to be the norm for night games, but we had a good time while we were there. I have to say, though, that I wish the Comets were still at the Toyota Center, which is closer to where we live and a better facility overall. I can understand why the Comets moved to Reliant, but I still wish they hadn't.

Reliant Arena holds 7,261, and although it's missing some of the bells and whistles Toyota Center offers, [Comets owner Hilton] Koch believed it would be more fan-friendly.

"I think it suits us better," he said. "Everyone will be closer to the floor, it will be full for games, and I think it will really be the right fit."


Jeff Gaines, assistant general manager of Reliant Park, said the Comets fit the mold of entertainment -- sporting events, concerts, circuses, etc. -- the complex wants to host.

"There are obvious advantages, starting with the financial situation. We are a little more cost-effective," Gaines said. "But we have a lot to offer to fans in the ways of good seats, good parking and less traffic."

The Comets, Reliant Park and Toyota Center can't comment on the amount of money spent to house a team, but Gaines said the team pays a lot less at Reliant than it did downtown.

Reliant Arena's concession stands don't offer as much as Toyota Center's, the scoreboards don't list game stats, and there won't be a jumbotron in the middle of the court. But Gaines said Reliant will strive to meet the needs and expectations of Comets fans.

"This team has a loyal fan base, and I hope we can do everything to make them feel at home here with their team," he said.

I would hope that it is costing the Comets considerably less to play at Reliant. Now that they're no longer a part of the Rockets portfolio, I suppose this was inevitable. I hope they're not taking that loyal fan base for granted by providing lesser concessions - in my experience, Comets fans are not shy about spending a few bucks at the game on food and drink - or amenities like stats and Jumbotron video. I didn't see anyone handing out program sheets like they did at Toyota, and between the lack of scoreboard info and the inferior sound system - I could barely hear the courtside announcer - I had little idea of who was actually in the game at any time. That's not very fan-friendly, if you ask me, but it is fixable if the Comets care to address it.

One more thing: Though the game was announced as a sellout, the place looked maybe 60% full - I'd guess there were 4000 to 4500 actual butts in seats. Chron reporter Jenny Dial called it "a packed house of 7,261". I think she either needs a new thesaurus or her vision checked. The crowd noise and atmosphere was decent enough, thanks to Reliant's smaller dimensions, but I don't see how that attendance level can be sustainable for the franchise. If that's the turnout they get for a sellout, what will we see for a lesser draw? If the franchise isn't worried about this, it ought to be.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on May 28, 2008 to Other sports
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