14 September 2008

Ticket Woes

There's been lots of good Wings news lately - the team wins the Cup, they resign almost all of their players to contracts that work for both the players and the team (the most recent being another year for Chris Chelios and two for Kyle Quincey - the article also includes a great bit about him working with Aaron Downey at fighting; it's always great to see a player putting for extra effort to find a niche that allows them to truly benefit the team, and as Quincey is NPI's Griffins favorite, this was especially promising news for me.), they secure at least one year of Marian Hossa to bolster their firepower...the list goes on.

However, there's always a dark side to things. Red Wings tickets, fallen in favor this past season due to the economy woes of much of Detroit and potentially even the team's habit of falling just a little (or a lot - see the 05/06 playoff exit) short of the big prize (the season opener last year against the Ducks didn't even sell out), are once again a hot commodity. Winning the Cup set the tone for the coming season - prices could, and would, raise.

Of course, back in July we were collectively told that several upper bowl seats were actually going to drop in price - and for good reason:

Violetta said lowering the prices for some of those upper-bowl seats -- which basically run from goal line to goal line -- was done after research from this past season. Many of those seats were unsold as fans simply went to the next section up and bought $22 tickets.
Makes sense - in fact, I did exactly that last season, especially when it came to playoff time. Make no mistake, I'm a poor recent college graduate, then college student, and of course I was looking for the filthiest of dirt cheap - but even so, it sounded like a good idea to get more bodies in the Joe - after all, I'm not the only poor college student who loves her team.

Well, then the price chart washed up from the depths of the internet and lo and behold, the season ticket holders were the only ones really benefitting from these recent price drops. The rest of us saw across the board price raises from, according to James Malik, $4-$65 per ticket. Of course, it's not completely unreasonable to see a team jack up prices, even in a job-draught town like Detroit, after a Cup win. The really good part is what comes next - the team quietly, and by quietly I mean without any notice at all, introduced the sort of 'premium game' ticket pricing some teams (like the Buffalo Sabres, for example) have. Imagine my surprise when yesterday morning at noon I logged on to Ticketmaster with the futile hope of getting tickets to the season opener, and the more likely one of nabbing a few to see the Rangers on October 18th, and the Oil on at least one of the two dates. After a thorough round of fighting with Ticketmaster's website, I realized that the ticket prices for the two games were substantially different - to the Rangers game you could pick up seats in the upper bowl, row 18, for $55 apiece. The Oilers? Row 17 for $48. Let Malik explain:

In addition to boosting the prices of single-game tickets in a state that continues to lose jobs at an astonishing race based upon a Stanley Cup win, they've also introduced "premium" game pricing. If you want to go see the Wings raise their Stanley Cup banner against the Toronto Maple Leafs on October 9th, you pay from $45-125 in the upper bowl, and from $125-235 in the lower bowl.

Want to see the Wings play an Original Six rival in the Rangers on Saturday, October 18th? It'll cost you from $35.00-$95.00 in the upper bowl, and from $95-195 to sit in the lower bowl.

Sneaky, very sneaky. Other games that are effected and considered 'premium' are the Original Six rivalries, the Penguins game on November 11, and the home game against the Blackhawks directly before the Winter Classic. The $9 tickets from last season still exist for purchase at the box office, going on sale in two month increments, but from the picking around I did it looks like the next step up - the $25 tickets - are practically unacquirable.

While I think it's very unfortunate to have this sprung on the fans, and it does truly suck that it's this hard and this expensive to get tickets to see the team you love, it's hard not to be happy that perhaps the team will be able to fill the Joe's seats again, following this victory. And besides that, it's something special to be a follower of a team like this in a city like ours. I can't say how many times I've thought it would be unbelievably nice to live in a city that didn't care, where you could walk up to the arena on the day of a game and pick up decent tickets from the box office a few hours before the game - but the more I've considered it every time I've realized I would hate to be in a town that didn't care, convenience or not.

It's a tough line to walk - on one hand, the price-gouging, especially in a city going through what Detroit is right now - is making it almost impossibly hard for some fans to attend games at all. How spectacular is having Zetterberg, Datsyuk, Hossa, Lidstrom, when you can't afford to see them live? On the other hand, being able to call this successful, this dynamic a team your own and to live in a city that bleeds for them, a real hockey city, often makes it feel worth it.

However, I ended up buying tickets to only two games, rather than the handful I would have liked, at least for now - and that sucks. While I'm not mad at the team per se, it's hard not to bear a little resentment at how thin my pocketbook is at the moment. So, what do you think? Worth it or not? Rip off, or okay? Would you rather life somewhere tickets cost spare change? I think in the long run, I like it here - unfortunate as it is. We'll always have FSN.


Fan Advocate said...

Good post. Red Wings fans are now getting a taste of the true cost of the "new NHL" post-lockout. I have been monitoring ticket prices for the average Joe/Joanne since '92 and it is shocking how the suits keep increasing the gate price (through sneaky tactics like convenience fees and premium tickets). Bottom line is that as the cap goes up, they have to find the revenue somewhere and it ain't coming from the television package at OLN/NBC. It sucks, but it's true.

I've said all along to the suits running the Senators in Ottawa that I have no problem with them charging what they want to charge. What I have a problem with is when they choose not to disclose the costs up front to the fan purchasing the tickets.

(thanks to Puck daddy for providing your link).

Steve the Fan Advocate
Ottawa, Canada

Connie said...

Great post, Steph. As always.

Have you tried actually having a ticket representative? Last season I would just call my rep up and get tickets without the hassle of Ticketmaster. I never had to deal with that stupid money-gouging site and always got the tickets I wanted.

Steph said...

FA: Thanks - we most certainly are. It's fascinating, though not surprising, how every little (or not so little) cost impacts every other. It's just too bad all these 'convenience' charges seem to INconvenience the fans more exponentially every season.

You have to expect an increase after a team wins a championship, sure, but it's going to get under ANY fan's skin when the same team tries to mask the increase and pacify the fans with promises without disclosing just what they apply to. I feel similarly, though - increase if you must, but don't throw it at me blindly and expect it to be shrugged off.

Connie: Thanks! I'm actually surprised at the amount of attention it's gotten - I wavered on posting it because I didn't want to seem whiny!

I've never tried having a rep - I almost went for a 9-game partial season ticket plan this season that would have landed me one, but at the last minute I wasn't sure I could commit to spending so much without having someone lined up to go with. It sounds nice, though, and worth looking in to. I have a couple friends who have had similar great experiences, ESPECIALLY in comparison to ticketmaster.

Connie said...

Steph - The post wasn't whiny at all. You telling it like it is, plain and simple. Different fans have different financial situations and the "poor college kid" needs to have his/her voice heard once in a while.

You should get the number to your friend's ticket rep. Just tell that rep you were referred to him and work up a rapport with him. My ticket guy and I are friends on facebook now, which I find comical.

Steph said...

Well I'm glad! It didn't really seem that way to me but, you know, I didn't want to be that fan who's all oh woe is me, my team won the Stanley Cup and now I can't afford tickets. But I felt like it was a legitimate concern, I'm not the only one after all!

I love that you're Facebook friends with your ticket rep! That's awesome and I would SO want to be if it were me.