Abbotsford city councillors expressed alarm at the $1.76 million Heat shortfall for the 2011/2012 season on Monday.
"This just dismays me. We're just bleeding," saidCoun. John Smith.
Smith and Coun. Henry Braun repeated a request to have more detailed reports and to have Heat staff present at the city audit and finance committee in an effort to find some solution to the problem. Smith said he was bewildered by the continued lack of attendance at games despite the NHL lockout, the top calibre hockey, and the Heat leading their division.
"We can't do better than that," he said. "We have to deal with this issue. It's killing us."
Mayor Bruce Banman said the city along with the Heat and Global Spectrum, which manages the Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre, have to guarantee people a premier "guest experience."
Banman stressed the importance of monitoring and improving such things as parking, food and beverage choices (AESC improved its menu options Friday) and cutting lines at concessions and ticket windows.
He also said it was time to stop focusing on negatives and focus on what is going well. Critics need to accept the arena and Heat supply fees are done deals and join efforts to solve the problem.
"There are solutions but moaning and groaning and crying about it won't make it better," said Banman.
A relatively small number of new fans were needed to secure the franchise success, he added.
"We're 1,500 people on average away from breaking even," he said.
Average attendance required to meet the break-even point is 3,905 paid customers; the paid customer base in 2011/12 was 2,653, according to the city. Average attendance for the six Heat games (ahead of last weekend's sold-out tilts) is 4,463, according to the AHL website, but that figure includes two sold-out games with the Canucks farm team.
The city will use about $900,000 in gaming revenue to cover half of the shortfall.