Victory By Design.
Local Sports Stations The Ticket And The Fan Battle For Turf In Victory Park.
By Cory on Tuesday March 6 2012 at 10:05 AM
After years of planning, KTCK1310-AM The Ticket finally moved in January into their new studios at 3090 Olive Street in Victory Plaza -- home of the defending champion Dallas Mavericks and the Dallas Stars.
The move hasn't been without its bugs: Signals have gone down, loads of audio from the old studios have not yet transferred over, an encoding error cost the station a week's worth of ratings, and their internet stream was wonkier than ever.
But perhaps the biggest hitch was completely unrelated to their technical difficulties.
While the long-reigning number one sports station in town was working out the details of its move, competing sports-talk station KRLD 105.3-FM The Fan somewhat quietly established its own presence in Victory Park -- and a whole two months sooner than The Ticket did.
Though not a full-fledged radio studio like The Ticket's new digs, The Fan Sports Lounge, located at nearby 2990 Olive Street, may do more to attract listeners to the area than The Fan's competitor's studios will.
The upscale sports bar and grill -- located inside the old Boardroom location -- offers sports fans a place to play video games and grab a beer or a bite to eat before Stars and Mavs games.
It also features a functioning studio where listeners can gawk at hosts doing pre- or post-game shows live on the air.
"It's a good little place where we can have events and giveaways and do meet and greets," says Richie Whitt, co-host of the afternoon drive-time show "RAGE" on The Fan. "It's just like a portable office, except that it's right there by the Mavs and Stars games. We've got a full menu -- it's a state-of-the-art, upscale bar with affordable food for Stars and Mavs fans. And while you're in there, you can look at the guest hosts being monkeys behind the glass."
Fans of The Fan viewing this as a shot across The Ticket's bow or as an open declaration of war may be disappointed, though. So, too, might Ticket fans hoping for some sort of retaliation for that matter.
Thus far, employees of The Ticket have remained wholly indifferent to their new neighbors' facilities.
"Good for them, I guess," says Michael Gruber, the afternoon board-operator at The Ticket. "I haven't really seen them draw just a ton of business, but I don't really pay attention to them either. As far as I know, it really doesn't affect us at all. If it maybe brings a listener into the area, then good for them. But a restaurant isn't a radio station, and it doesn't affect us one bit -- other than just not getting to eat there. It's not going to affect our product, so if they feel like spending money on that, then good for them."
None of this is surprising, really. Gruber's response is precisely the public stance you'd expect from an employee at a station whose ratings are well above the combined ratings of all their in-town competition.
Still, no matter what either side says, it won't stop listeners from speculating about The Fans' motivation for encroaching on The Ticket's turf -- even if employees at The Fan are too downplaying the stations' newfound proximity.
"I really don't think [they] had anything to do with it," Whitt says. "If the Ticket wouldn't have been down there, we still would have gone ahead with these plans. There might be a residual kind of firing a shot over the bow at them indirectly, but I don't think it is us going, 'The Ticket is moving to Victory Park, we have to do something.' It was just an opportunity that presented itself, and we did it. Some of the side effects may look like we're battling not just for listeners but for real estate down at Victory Park. If that's the perception, then that's fine -- because I guarantee our studios are second to none."
Ticket fans waiting around for their beloved "little Ticket" to retaliate with a restaurant or bar of their own probably shouldn't hold their breath, though. Remotes -- broadcasts conducted away from the stations' studios -- are a big part of the station's identity, so it wouldn't necessarily make sense to open up a spot of their own that might directly compete with that potential business, Gruber says.
Either way, it doesn't sound like the folks at The Ticket are all that concerned about their new neighbors.
"Look, we know what we are capable of doing and if we execute it properly and do the job that we know how to do, then we're going to keep listeners around because we're entertaining," Gruber says. "Like ['Hardline' host] Mike [Rhyner] says, 'We can do what they can do, but they can't do what we do.' Luckily, the other competition hasn't really been a concern up to this point."
Adds Gruber: The Ticket crew isn't really expecting any crazy hijinks to go down in Victory Park any time soon, either.
"It's been a month," he says. "If anything was going to happen, I would think it would have already happened by now. I don't really know what they could do, even. I don't really think they're the type of people that would firebomb our building or anything."
It remains fairly early on in the game, though, and it will be interesting to see how these stations are able to co-exist in Victory Park.
It will also be intriguing to see how, if at all, the moves affect the stations' respective audience sizes or if the third sports station in town, KESN 103.3-FM ESPN Radio, will feel the need to jump on some real estate near the American Airlines Center as well.
"We're not going anywhere, and I'm pretty sure they're not going anywhere," says Whitt. "This isn't like Westside Story, where we're out there literally painting our turf and putting graffiti on the wall. Ours is more of a 'Come for happy hour, come for lunch and we'll be doing a show there' thing. Theirs is just their physical studios. They're doing more business. Ours is business mixed with a little pleasure."