- The Washington Times - Friday, September 21, 2007

The Washington Capitals‘ sales staff is getting extra help this week in selling season ticket packages for the upcoming season. Luckily for them, that help is already on the team’s payroll.

As part of an aggressive strategy to boost attendance, nearly half the Caps’ roster is assisting in making calls to fans who might be interested in renewing or buying season tickets.

“Our goal is to be the most accessible team in terms of fan interaction in D.C.,” said Jim Van Stone, the Caps’ vice president of ticket sales. “I think a lot of people were blown away. And it’s great for the players. … It was probably very new for a lot of them.”

The team this week has asked 20 players to make about 20 phone calls each with the assistance of members of the sales staff. Most of the calls are to existing season ticket holders who have not yet renewed for this year or other fans who previously had expressed interest in buying tickets.

“Most of them were happy to hear from me,” said left wing Donald Brashear, who spent Wednesday afternoon making calls. “When you hear from someone who’s been inside the dressing room, it’s a lot more convincing than a normal [sales] call.”

It’s unclear whether the calls are having an immediate effect on boosting sales, but a team spokesman said more than a dozen ticket holders renewed their plans on the spot after getting calls Wednesday. More players, including captain Chris Clark, are expected to make calls this afternoon.

The player involvement is part of a sales and marketing strategy that has resulted in a season ticket renewal rate of more than 90 percent, Van Stone said. Team owner Ted Leonsis has held receptions for potential ticket holders at Verizon Center, and thousands of fans visited the team’s new practice facility in Arlington on the night of the first round of the NHL draft June 22. That night, the team also unveiled new uniforms.

Meanwhile, the team recently began selling special six-game packages featuring the most popular teams in the NHL to avoid having Verizon Center filled with opponents’ fans.

The Caps last year averaged about 13,900 fans in reported attendance a game, placing them 27th out of 30 teams. Caps officials have said they would like to boost the season ticket base from 7,500 last year to more than 9,000. A scarcity of tickets, Leonsis has said, would allow the team to raise prices and increase revenue.

“Season tickets are the lifeblood of any sports franchise,” Van Stone said. “Our whole mission is to grow that base.”

Caps officials and players said there is a greater feeling of optimism heading into this season than in years because of several well-received acquisitions and signings in the offseason.

“We really need the fans’ support,” Brashear said. “It’s a big part of our success, and at times when we get down we could use a little pep, a little more from the stands.”

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