The Los Angeles Kings are hoping for some new hockey fans. The team had a dismal season on the ice last year, with a last place finish in the Western Conference. Those results make selling tickets difficult, especially given the current economic climate.

So the team's marketing department has developed several new initiatives this year that tap into nontraditional sources to boost attendance.

"We want to reach out to business, social and cultural groups," said Jonathan Lowe, senior director of marketing and promotions.

On Dec. 1, the Kings launched Business Alliance, a networking group for ticket-holders. Ed Roski was the first speaker at the organization's inaugural event, with about 50 people attending. Roski spoke about the history of Staples Center and the boost that L.A. Live's opening would give downtown.

Eight Business Alliance networking events are planned throughout the year. Other speakers will include Kings President Luc Robitaille and local business leaders.

The Kings are also trying to build ethnic loyalty: Last month, the team held Russian community night. They hired local Russian party planner Dina Goutar to help them publicize the postgame event by placing advertising in Russian media. Results were better than expected, according to Lowe. The promotion drew 800 fans to the game, and many of them attended a postgame party with the team's Russian-born players such as Alexander Frolov.

"We are planning a similar event for the Armenian community in February and hope to have celebrities of Armenian descent attend," Lowe said.

The Kings have plans to attract church groups, police, firefighters and college students. To attract church groups, the team has invited several local Christian bands to play before select games. Police and firefighters will be honored as part of a Heroes Night program; nearly 800 police officers attended a recent Heroes Night game.

College students have also been a source of new ticket sales. The team has sold discounted tickets to students affiliated with the UCLA and USC college hockey teams. It seems that more than half of these supposedly skate-oriented students had never attended a National Hockey League game in the past.

Brand Awareness

The Los Angeles Lakers are the top team brand in the L.A. market, according to a survey released this month by Turnkey Sports & Entertainment. The basketball team surpassed both the Los Angeles Dodgers and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim baseball franchises in the second annual survey that tracks fan allegiance to professional sports teams and leagues across the country.

The survey showed a significant increase in fan approval of the Lakers ownership, said Len Perna, chief executive of Turnkey. "The Lakers benefited greatly from their playoff success."

Perna said that the most intriguing aspect of the L.A. market was fans' continued interest in the National Football League. The league ranked second behind the National Basketball Association as the most admired league in the area, even though the Rams and the Raiders both left more than a decade ago.

The Lakers and Dodgers both received the highest ratings for sponsor affinity.

"Sponsors affiliate with teams like the Dodgers because there is a gravitational source of the Dodgers brand pulling toward your brand," Perna said.

Stadium Slowdown

The plans for a football stadium in the City of Industry aren't going to become reality as fast as the developer originally expected. Ed Roski said that his company, Majestic Realty Co., could build an NFL-worthy arena as early as the 2011 football season. But his assessment has proven overly optimistic. As it's taking longer for the environmental review process is still under way. So it will likely be 2012 at best before a team moves into the proposed facility, according to Mike Kissell, a City of Industry planning department officer.

Plans call for the construction of an $800 million, 75,000-seat football stadium. Roski's company has submitted a supplemental Environmental Impact Report for the site, which was previously approved as an office and industrial complex. The report has been reviewed by neighboring cities, state government agencies and the general public. The City of Industry planning department is reviewing public comments.

League officials have said they won't commit to a site until Roski has all his entitlements. After that, he'd have to bring a team to town.

So NFL fans still have quite a wait for a new franchise.

Oscar Party

A statue of Oscar de la Hoya was put on display in front of Staples Center before his fight against Manny Pacquiao on Dec. 5 in Las Vegas. East L.A.'s Golden Boy lost the bout, but AEG officials plan to keep the statue in front of the venue alongside Earvin "Magic" Johnson and Wayne Gretzky anyway.

However, the statue wasn't quite finished when it was unveiled Dec. 1., so it was moved off site for completion. Its 14,000-pound granite base is still undergoing final touches.

Staples Center officials expect the statue to be installed permanently this week.

Staff reporter David Nusbaum can be reached at dnusbaum@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 236.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, CLICK HERE.