Friday, January 25, 2008

Dinner Now, Sharks Later

Do you ever wish nighttime sports events would start a little earlier? As an early riser, I'm a firm believer that 7 PM is a more humane starting time than 7:30 PM (hey, when your alarm clock goes off at 4 AM, every half-hour counts).

And I know many parents would love to take their kids to ballgames during the week, but the later the event runs, the less attractive a trip to the arena seems.

So I was interested to hear San Jose Sharks CEO Greg Jamison explain his rationale for those 7:30 starts at the Shark Tank. Jamison told the Comerica Bank Economic Forecast Conference (and elaborated with me in a chat later) that he'd personally rather go with the earlier starting time, but there's a reason they stick with 7:30.

That reason is the downtown San Jose restaurant scene. See, the Sharks have found that when they play earlier, fewer people go out for dinner before coming to the Tank. Jamison doesn't have exact numbers to prove it, but he says there's no doubt that the extra half-hour lets more fans stop off for a restaurant meal

It's an enlightened viewpoint. It would be easy for the Sharks to say "the hell with the restaurants" and proceed to sell more food at the HP Pavilion. But it speaks to an understanding that a rising tide floats all boats. If downtown San Jose is alive and vibrant, it's only good news for the Sharks and their ownership (which also operates the HP Pavilion and books all the other events there).

By the way, here's another data point from Jamison: the Sharks Ice facility in San Jose (one of 3 run by the team in the Bay Area) is directly responsible for 15,000 hotel room bookings this year. That's because of all the hockey tournaments and skating events staged at the facility, which is now the biggest ice facility west of the Mississippi and is open 20 hours a day.

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