They say that there are three sides to every story: yours, mine, and the truth. When it comes to hockey, and blogging about hockey, nothing seems more accurate.
And then, if you are a blogger at the Fanhouse, you can apply that principle with the other blogging stalwart: If it worked once, do it again and again.
First, Adrian Dater (again with the Dater) is reporting in his blog that the Avalanche are finally doing something they should have done a few years ago:
Just got off the phone with Kroenke Sports, and they will be selling upper bowl tickets for $20, starting noon on Wednesday at the Pepsi Center box office, for Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks.
You read that right, $20 upper bowl tickets. As Lewis Black once said about the tax rebate, “Free at last, free at last.” Dater goes on:
What does this say? It says that the Avs, once the toughest ticket in this town, are getting desperate to fill the building again, by any means necessary.
We’re almost into February, and the Avs are having to off-load tickets at bargain rates against an Original Six team.
I have to say, Adrian Dater has become a pretty decent hockey blogger. “Desperate?” Punching the keywords of doom and gloom to get the reading public on board. Perfect. If you break out your hockey blogger thesaurus, desperate = any reason for change.
The story here is that they are, so far, only doing it for one game, doing it the day of the game, and only for the upper bowl (no, I do not think they should have $20 lower bowl, come on). In other words, not enough to make a huge impact, and a target audience of people who are making the game a last minute decision. While we are at it, who cares if the Blackhawks are an Original Six team or not? Why is that a draw? They can’t sell in their own arena, why would they sell in Denver? What I see is a test run, to determine whether or not ticket prices can be linked to butts in seats. I have news for Kroenke Sports (who own the Avs, Nuggets, Rapids (soccer), Mammoth (lacrosse), and more), it can. If you can not afford to pay the price for a ticket, you do not go. It’s really as simple as that. Of course, price is not the only factor to go into the decision of going to a game. But I will get into that in a moment.
Dater writes that Denver’s economic downturn is a primary factor, but it’s not like the Avalanche were fleecing fans to begin with. The last Fan Cost Index from Team Marketing Report had Colorado below the League average and even the Islanders and Blue Jackets. The Avs are currently in the eight hole in the West; that, and their slew of injuries clearly have fans feeling pessimistic.
OK, make that slowly staggers away with it. The Fan Cost Index? What the FCI is barely adequate for is determining the cost of going to a game, and spreads it out over the entire arena. It talks about the average cost, which includes the cost of beer, hot dogs, a hat, parking, and a program. It’s an overview, but a selective one. More on the FCI in a moment.
Lets take a look at some real numbers. Here are screen captures from the latest ticket sales numbers from some of the up and down teams in the league. These are taken from Ticketmaster.com, today, for the next home game, be that today, or nest week.
Detroit Red Wings (who are also having attendance problems):
OK, let’s get back to the matchup of the Blackhawks and the Avs, where this whole debate started.
OK, now that we have the numbers (and this is only a sampling, but a decent cross section of teams on either end of the spectrum), what sticks out? First off, aside from the Penguins, who are selling out games left and right, the Avs have the highest ticket price at the bottom of the chart. They are two dollars more than the Minnesota Wild, who are selling out games left and right, and the Detroit Red Wings, who have attendance problems of their own. But let’s say that you don’t want to sit on the end of the rink, within five rows of the top of the building. The next tier of prices for the Avs is a $14 increase. The ticket price increase for the Ducks is higher ($18.50), but that next-level ticket is still cheaper than the Avs next level ($38.00 for the Avs, $35.50 for the Ducks).
Where does the FCI fall apart? Remember, we are talking average ticket price. Looking at the top prices of the list, the Ducks ticket price tops out at $300, the Avs at $209, the Blackhawks at $275, the Penguins at a measly $150, and the Red Wings at $85. Remember, these are the prices given by Ticketmaster, today. The averaging of ticket prices for a game is nearly impossible to calculate. A better calculation would be seat price versus seat location. How do comparable seats in various arenas price out? Look at the jump in price for the Blackhawks, from $85 to $275, between the top price and second to top. A similar story is seen in Minnesota. While the trend is not tracking between price and ticket sales, it does show how the average ticket price can be thrown out of sync with the rest of the teams in the league.
The NHL has always stipulated that ticket prices are based on what the market can sustain. If the market can not afford the price of the tickets, or if there is not enough value for the money, ticket prices drop. If tickets are in high demand, the price will go up, and the people selling the tickets will test the limits of the market. If that’s the case. believe me when I say, the Avs have found that limit. It wasn’t that long ago the sellout streak at the Pepsi Center came to an end. In fact, it was just last year. Ticket prices, against the odds, are still priced as though the streak continues. Something had to give, and this could be the start.
When I was in Detroit, I got into a conversation about the Red Wings and their “attendance woes” with a man who was not, by his own admission, a hockey fan. He was trying to figure out ways for the Wings to sell more tickets. His angle was a better delivery system, something digital, something with cell phones. I told him only one thing would work, lower ticket prices. And the funny thing was, he didn’t want to hear it. He thought there was some gimmick that would make the whole thing better, some way of making the ticket buying cooler, and more enjoyable. I had to break it down for him: Best record, hottest goalies, winning games at home, passionate fans, players the fans love. Every factor you could want in a hockey team, every factor a fan could want to in their team. And still they weren’t selling. What else was there to do?
Take away those factors by half, and you have the situation that the Avalanche are in (good home record, fan favorite players who are injured, decent home record). Add to that the sports budget stretched farther than ever in Denver, thanks to the World Series run of the Colorado Rockies (which had never happened before), and injuries decimating the roster (Tyler Arnason is the top center right now), and you have plenty of reasons not to go to the games. But even with that, the number one factor for going to a game is if you can afford it or not. If you do not have the money, you do not go. Simple.
Here’s a line that tickled me pink from Wyshynski’s post:
Last month, Jes Golbez lit a powder keg on FanHouse with a post about the eroding attendance numbers for the once-infallible Colorado Avalanche, covering everything from the argument that the team has too few stars to the debate about the effect the League’s national TV ratings have on Denver.
You know, that made me laugh. “Everything?” Not even close. While Golbez piled on the the snark, he left out the biggest reasons people may not want to pay to see a game (or any event, for that matter). Fan experience and value for money. I don’t know if Greg or Jes have ever attended a game at Le Can, but I certainly have seen my fair share from the last season, and can talk about the experience and value I got for my money. And if you do not think it’s worth the price of admission, you aren’t going to go.
While on the subject, if you are going to read the articles put out on the Fanhouse, you should also take a moment to read this post by Jibblescribbits. On the Fanhouse, it is called a “furious rebuttal,” I would say it was a “researched rebuttal.” In the immortal words Brian Regan, “They’re using numbers and stuff.”
Let me say that I do not endorse the ticket prices laid out by the Colorado Avalanche, or Kroenke Sports. It think they have been way too high for too long, and think they should have lowered ticket prices as soon as the lockout ended. If not then, certainly the season after. Doing this now, and for only one game, shows a misjudgment of the overcrowded Denver sports market.
If you trust the FCI, and want to pull numbers from it, then you can see that the Avs ticket price did not change from the 2005-06 season, to the 2006-07 season. Which is what the FCI is measuring, not the current season. That’s right, they are a season behind. So know what you are getting into when you look at their charts. This comes from the bottom of the FCI:
Average ticket price represents a weighted average of season ticket prices for general and club-level seats, determined by factoring the tickets in each price range as a percentage of the total number of seats in each stadium. Luxury suite sales are excluded from the survey. Season-ticket pricing is used for any team that offers some or all tickets at lower prices for customers who buy season tickets. Costs were determined by telephone calls with representatives of the teams, venues and concessionaires. Faxes were sent to verify the information supplied. Identical questions were asked in all interviews.
How realistic is this? For the average hockey fan, and not the season ticket holder, highly unrealistic. And the FCI is based on season ticket prices, not the prices for fans like you and I. Season tickets are a constant for hockey teams, and are not where attendance woes are coming from, nor where this current ticket price cut is aimed at. The FCI isn’t high on my list of useable sources.
This has all taken about as much research as rolling out of bed. Don’t get me wrong, I like Greg Wyshynski. I met him at the NHL Draft this past year in Columbus, and think he is a good writer and a nice guy. But I really think he should have done a better job on this one. Looking at the FCI, quoting Dater, and rolling the eyes is not good enough. Then again, this is hockey blogging. Research does not get people reading like snark. So maybe it is.