New Orleans’ arena football team looking to get its mojo working.
After three losing seasons, each progressively worse, new New Orleans VooDoo General Manager Brandon Rizzuto hopes to conjure up the previous success the city’s Arena Football League team enjoyed. Responsible for securing corporate sponsorships and putting fans in the stands, he has a tall task ahead. But with a football-crazy city and one of the best names and logos in all of professional sports, he is confident of resurrecting the team’s initial glory.
“New Orleans is a football town, and the VooDoo fill the void left when the Saints and the NFL aren’t playing,” Rizzuto says. “Arena football has been successful here before. There is no reason that it can’t be again.”
The VooDoo was one of the AFL’s brightest franchises when they began play in 2004. They ended their first two seasons among the AFL’s top attendance leaders with more than 15,240 per game. The city also had the league’s top television market for NBC’s Sunday afternoon games. But natural and financial troubles soon spelled doom for the team and the league. The VooDoo did not field a team in 2006 due to Hurricane Katrina, but returned strong in 2007. With civic pride running deep, they set an AFL season-ticket record with more than 13,000 season tickets sold and led the league in average attendance with 16,645. League economic troubles the next year, however, caused Benson to cease the team’s operations. With approximately $14 million owed to its creditors, the AFL suspended the entire 2009 season before returning in 2010.
The VooDoo’s current incarnation moved to New Orleans in 2012. But losses have piled like bones in a catacomb with the team going 8-10, 5-13 and 3-15 the last three years.
“I am working tirelessly to right this ship and to build and rebuild relationships among our fans and business partners,” Rizzuto says. “There is a lot of work to be done, and that is the fun part.”
While season-ticket sales aren’t as strong as they were prior to 2007, Rizzuto says the team is focusing on technology, marketing and merchandising as ways to better connect with fans.
Price point is a major attraction to the sport when compared to the NFL. VooDoo season tickets run from $100-$800 apiece compared to $340-$3080 each for the Saints.
“You can bring a family of four to the game, enjoy food and get merchandise for under $100,” Rizzuto said. He’s using that as an opportunity to sell clients on the idea that they can reach new customers and maintain a consistent advertising campaign with football fans from April through August.
So far this year, the team relaunched its website, adding new features including an app and online store, which features clothing and accessories featuring the VooDoo’s logo, a likeness of Baron Samedi, a Voodoo loa or spirit.
The VooDoo begin the 2015 season with a three-game home stand, kicking off the regular season in The Graveyard against their division rival Jacksonville Sharks on March 28. The team will be led by Dean Cokinos, the fifth head coach in the club’s history. Recognized as an expert in player evaluation, development and advancement, Cokinos’ overall regular season record as a head coach is 159-87 and 12-11 in the post season.
Cokinos sees the chance for immediate opportunity. “We can work this back up and get to the next level quickly,” he says. “And I think we can do that in one year.”