Randy Travis and Country Western Hockey

Bremerton, Washington

Originally published August 2003
--Greg Meakin

Randy Travis performing in Kitsap County and possibly being at an ice arena? What gives with that?

To my knowledge, Randy Travis is not a hockey player. Rather, his incredible rise to fame since the late 1980s is apparently due to his talents as a country western singer, not by skating exploits on East Coast frozen ponds.

Why then, pray tell, does an ice arena have great interest in this national legend’s local concert? Heck, an outdoor concert in the middle of a blazing summer doesn’t even remotely sound like hockey or ice sports.

When asked recently by an Arts and Entertainment reporter why Bremerton Ice Arena became involved with a country western show (Travis was scheduled at Port Orchard’s Miracle Ranch on August 6), the arena spokesperson responded that it supports anything that services as an entertainment or recreational destination for residents.

This is true.

In addition, sponsoring an event that supports needy kids is always a good thing.

And let’s not forget that old word, publicity!

In retrospect, however, there might have been a somewhat different answer had the journalist been scribing a Business Section article, working on a case study for an economic thesis, or a similarly positioned piece.

Had the question been, “What is it about the way Bremerton Ice Arena approaches its business that causes its involvement in non-ice sponsorships or causes,” two key words already spoken in the first paragraph above would have been the basis of the answer.

The two words, which might cause puzzled looks by those pondering their significance, are national and local. A national legend at a local concert.

Just like that.

In the arena project’s infancy – a couple of years ago – a distinct part of the business plan was formulated and embraced. This key component was labeled “National Quality Approach.” Essentially, it implores the company to do everything with superb quality in mind.

Put another way, when making decisions about things; ask yourself if what you’re implementing would be accepted on a national scale. For example, if a reporter from a national publication flew into town and observed what you were doing, would the reporter perceive it as “world-class” (national acceptance) or “rinky-dink” (local, small town stigma)?

My theory all along is if a business takes this approach and delivers national quality in its products, services and staff professionalism, the likelihood of the company succeeding at the local level is high.

Taking it a step further is a much broader and ambitious theory; that taking this approach – in the Randy Travis case by BIA being the lead sponsor in helping to bring a national name and national attention to the area – will provoke economic development for the region.


The short answer is because it’s exciting.

The prospect of having something big happening creates many things, not least of which being consumer excitement, which seems to always precede consumer confidence and spending.

A robust local economy serves as a launching pad for small businesses – the wonderful prospect of operating in the black thus having the opportunity to plan for real company growth.

Responsible growth then further enriches the local economy and continues to improve the quality of life for citizens.

And so the cycle goes.

There’s nothing new about this, to be sure. It’s Economics 101 for the most part. And some would argue the thinking is over-simplistic or ignores local challenges and issues.

Sure, it’s cool to think about national quality and doing things on a grand scale to generate local excitement, but what about this and what about that?

I believe the answer lies not in the constructive debates involving cost versus quality (although I learned long ago that doing things “first class” doesn’t always mean with more expense, or maintaining local identity, or what constitutes responsible growth. These are topics that, as with any business approach or decision, need to be carefully considered.

The underlying message here lies not in the details or issues of contention, but in the perspective and attitude we select for ourselves.

My personal perspective on this issue was shaped in part several years ago when some key thoughts were relayed to me from two mentors I respect and admire. I have always maintained mentor relationships (both as the mentor and “mentee!”).

One of these gentlemen believe that people are too consumed with cutting costs, rather than focusing as much or more on creative, exciting ways to increase earnings.

The second mentor took me aside and said, “Greg, many people in Kitsap County have a self- esteem problem. For some reason they don’t believe they deserve or could ever attain big things.”

I believe these two thoughts – proffered by different people on unrelated subjects – are quite synonymous, as both directly relate to perspective, attitude and thus approach. And if you really think about it, all it boils down to is the most basic of human ideas – optimism versus pessimism.

Randy Travis represents an exciting, national figure coming to town. Surely, many of his supporters have never conserved patronizing an ice arena.

The beauty here to me is two import things are accomplished. The country western audience represents a distinctly different group of people and the best way to grow is to attract new customers, essentially to stay away from a “preaching to the choir” marketing habit.

Although it might seem otherwise at first blush, the ice arena and Randy Travis is really a perfect match. It is an accord built on common ground – youth and family, community, entertainment and passion – rather than differences.

But as importantly, it specifically addresses the national quality/local excitement aspect of improving the region as a whole, if serving only as a fun summer event, proof that big names will indeed visit the area, and definitely a teaser of bigger things to come.

Will Randy Travis lace on skates while he’s here? Maybe show us how country western people play hockey? Who knows, but he’s formally been invited to do so.

Now that would be common ground.

Or would it be common ice?