Are the Nashville Predators scheming to keep legions of Chicago Blackhawks fans from storming Bridgestone Arena this season? Or are they simply doing their best to grow the business of hockey here in Tennessee?
Chris Parker, the Nashville Predators' Executive Vice President and Chief Sales & Marketing Officer, provided some of the details behind the team's ticketing strategy this season, which is focused on two primary objectives:
- Provide season ticket holders with a wide range of benefits, such as pricing, exclusive buying opportunities, extended payment plan, etc.
- Maximize the team's home-ice advantage, something Parker termed "the goldenization" of Bridgestone Arena
Now, the interesting part of the second item above is that along with an upside for local fans comes, well, restrictions for fans outside our region.
Coming From Chicago? It'll Cost You
The controversial aspect of this plan involves bundling each single-game ticket for a Chicago Blackhawks matchup (Saturday November 16, Tuesday December 17, and Saturday April 12) with the purchase of a ticket to another game. So if you're planning a trip from the Windy City, you can either make another trip to Smashville during the season (a great idea, obviously) or find a way to dispose of that ticket.
Is this a ploy to keep Blackhawks fans from invading Bridgestone Arena en masse, as they have done on a few occasions since they returned to prominence with their 2010 Stanley Cup championship?
Maybe, maybe not. My impression is that it's more about making those out-of-towners open their wallets a little bit extra to make the trip to Smashville. Think about it, if you're already planning to travel down from Chicago for a game (including airfare or gas, hotel, spending money, etc.), is the price of another ticket going to put that adventure out of reach? I highly doubt it - at worst it might take a round or two off their bar tab.
All this is part of the modern game of ticket sales, which has developed into a complex exercise whereby teams understand better than ever before that not all games are created equal. Particular nights which will attract much greater demand than the rest, and the challenge for a savvy business is how to capture as much revenue as possible in those situations.
After all, this bundling policy will really only impact those folks who only want to attend one game at Bridgestone Arena this season, against the Chicago Blackhawks. There may be a few locals who fall into that category, but for them there will still be the day-of-game option, or of course the secondary ticket market (venues like TiqIQ or StubHub). The likely result of this move is to have Chicago fans left holding an extra ticket to some random Predators home game, which either finds its way into the secondary market, or perhaps gets donated to servicemen, as suggested by team COO Sean Henry to Section303.com.
Pre-Sale Opportunities Give Preds Fans Priority
Perhaps the bigger factor in this effort is a new aspect of the "pre-sale" period, the time immediately preceding the general availability of game tickets. Note the following timeline:
- Friday, August 16: Tickets to pre-season games go on sale
- August 26 - September 7: Single game ticket sales for season-ticket holders, suite holders, corporate sponsors, etc.
- Saturday, September 7: Single game ticket sales on sale, but only at Bridgestone Arena box office
- September 9 - 12: Single game ticket sales via internet (Preds TV viewing area only)
- September 13: General availability for single game tickets
The last three steps there are particularly interesting, as first we have an opportunity for fans in Nashville to head over to the Bridgestone Arena box office on September 7, followed by an internet offering which is geographically restricted to the Predators' TV viewing region (Tennessee, northern Alabama, Kentucky, etc. - it is expected but not yet confirmed that the Atlanta market is included). For most of those people, buying an extra game along with a Chicago match won't be a big deal - they may be already planning to take in multiple games anyway.
By the time the virtual ticket window opens wide open on September 13, those Chicago games may well be close to sold out already.
If Blackhawks fans want to jump on the remainder, then fine, let them buy an extra ticket, too. Or if they'd like to wait...
How the Story Likely Ends
The great equalizer here, of course, is the secondary ticket market, which has become more sophisticated and robust with each passing year. Motivated Blackhawks fans will surely find the tickets they want through any number of different outlets, and thanks to the pre-sale opportunities available, motivated Predators fans can get "first dibs" on the games of their choice.
Along the way, the team can at least take best advantage of those highly-coveted games to lock in the sale of a few thousand more tickets to other nights.
While the short-term focus is on whether or not a sea of red will overtake Smashville when the Stanley Cup champions come to town, the long-term story is how the Predators are going about the steady work of developing a fan base here in Middle Tennessee. The continuing message is that if you commit to some sort of a package (15-game, half-season, etc.), you'll get the best deals available and preferential treatment in a number of different areas, such as pre-sale opportunities for non-hockey events at Bridgestone Arena, Meet the Team parties, etc.
Absent a championship run of our own to load up the bandwagon (and there's nothing wrong with that), it takes a long time to build a robust hockey market. The ticketing plan outlined above is another step along that road...