Tonight, the Albany Devils will take on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in one of two games the two will play in the Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall, former home of the ECHL’s Atlantic City Boardwalk Bullies. This is the third straight year and fourth season the Devils have done this, but it is down from the four times they did it in 2010-11, 2012-13, and 2013-14 to just two this year. Also this year– Albany will play in Prudential Center for a game in January. However, this is beginings the question whether or not it is a feeling out by Devils’ management to see if there’s a place for perhaps the Devils to move from Albany into a new home.
Granted, the big thing for Albany is that the Times Union Center is so much newer than the Boardwalk Hall, which was built in 1929, whereas the Times Union Center opened in 1990 and had upgrades done in the last few years (EDIT: Travis Hughes of SBNation has informed me that the Boardwalk Hall was renovated in the early 2000s and is practically brand new). For the Atlantic City side, it’s about 100 miles closer to the Prudential Center than what Albany is right now. With teams looking for closer proximity for their prospects– that could be a nice little perks for AC. Here’s a list of the last four seasons average attendance in Albany and Atlantic City.
2010-11: Albany 3,048; Atlantic City 3,709 (30th in AHL Attendance)
2011-12: Albany 3,435 (30th, No games in Atlantic City)
2012-13: Albany 3,846; Atlantic City 3,986 (27th)
2013-14: Albany 3,399; Atlantic City 3,029 (27th)
To be fair, the attendance issue is probably due to Albany not being any good on the ice– which people believe will affect things. With only one playoff appearance in their four seasons, you can say the lack of success of a barely under .500 team will not make people all hyped to go down and attend games.
With all that said, the lease for the Devils in Albany is up at the end of this year, which could mean that Atlantic City is something that could just be seen as a testing point by the Devils or something used as a leverage move for New Jersey in order to get more concessions from the city of Albany when negotiations go on. This is something that’s has started being talked about last season at the end of the year, with the fact of the attendance only rising later in the year being brought up.
Despite the New Jersey Devils believing that Albany is a solid AHL market and the Times Union Center provided top-of-the-line facilities and minimum travel for their players– the attendance number could be something that could make all the good things a moot point when the bottom line at the box office isn’t being met to expectations, especially when the ticket prices are the fourth lowest on average for the league.
There are alternatives in the Albany region with Union College and RPI providing a bigger atmosphere (seemingly) than the Devils, despite them all having a good amount of weekend dates– it’s not as if the Devils are just hamstrung to Tuesday and Wednesday games. While it’s probably doubtful that Atlantic City is the destination due to the age of the arena and the inability to possible get a new place or upgrades to Boardwalk Hall, we could be seeing the end days of the Albany Devils if more people don’t come out to support the squad.