Thursday, February 16, 2012

Ticket Price Increases And The Price Of The Kings "Success"

If you've spent the last few weeks fretting over the Kings lack of scoring, worrying about what roster moves Dean Lombardi could make at the trade deadline or whether Jonathan Quick will manage to salvage this season and pull out a Vezina nomination, you can stop worrying. You've got bigger fish to fry if you're a Kings season ticket holder.

You've got to find more money to pay for your season tickets next season. In some cases, significantly more.

The ever-intrepid Helene Elliott broke the news first and most of the Kings fans I know are already up in arms about the projected increases. How can you blame them? Our on-ice product this season has been marginal at best. The economy stinks. No one really plans for a price hike, even though we've seen them every season except one in recent memory. And it certainly doesn't help reading the bad news on the Internet before you even hear it from your Kings representative.

But now that we've ripped the band-aid off and exposed the problem, let's break things down and see just how unreasonable -- or not -- this increase is.

From the Kings perspective, there are some good reasons to justify a price increase.
  • Los Angeles is the second largest media market in the country, yet we pay less for seats here than in smaller markets -- for example San Jose, which is the fourth largest.
  • According to the Los Angeles Times article linked above, Kings ticket prices are still below the league average.
  • The Kings will hopefully make their 3rd playoff appearance in a row this season and seats have been selling well all year. With all but a handful of games selling out, AEG is in a position to capitalize on the market demand for this team.
  • Player salaries are already expensive and the league and the players union have a new CBA to negotiate by September. The players were the ones that compromised before, but with Donald Fehr at the helm I wouldn't count on that happening again. The cost of your on-ice product will be even more in the 2012-2013 season and someone has to help pay for it.
  • Like it or not, hockey is a business. The price inflation that hits you hurts them too, and every expense involved in running the arena, fielding a team, and servicing fans costs more in this economy.
The first three points are the most critical. We're in a huge market with high demand due to the recent success of our team, yet we're paying less than our fellow fans in smaller markets. Sounds like a pretty good deal. And when you start looking at ticket prices in other markets around the league, the picture looks even better.

Take Canada for example. Why do you think there are so many Canadian fans at Staples Center when their teams play here? Because at Staples Center, you can sit in lower bowl for same price as a 300 level seat in a Canadian arena. I know this because I've done it.

Two seasons ago, I went to Toronto to see the Kings play the Leafs. At the time, my regular Kings season seat was in section 114, 8 rows behind the glass. Those tickets cost me $97 a seat. Section 310, Row 18 at Air Canada Centre? Over $100 including service fees. Granted, the Canadian dollar was stronger 2 years ago than it is now, but you see the point.

Now I'm sure you're saying to yourself, "Yeah, but that's Canada. Not a fair comparison because hockey is the only sport that matters up there." Fair enough. Let's look at a US example, in this case the New York Rangers. Madison Square Garden is in the midst of a $850 million renovation that will take several years to complete. Someone has to may for that, and I don't see James Dolan and Cablevision pulling that wad of cash out of their back pocket.  Over the summer, their season ticket holders saw increases averaging 23% -- and that's in ONE SEASON. The Kings average increase will be 9%.

This is what $100 gets you at Madison Square Garden. Beer and pretzels extra.

View From My Seats (one of my favorite hockey blogs, incidentally) ran a feature back in 2010 that did the best job I've seen of breaking down ticket costs across the league. While the stats are no longer current, the thought process still holds true today. When you compare apples to apples, Kings season ticket holders still have a pretty good thing going, even with a price increase on the way.

The good news is that you have plenty of time to scrounge up the extra cash -- early bird renewals aren't due until March 24th. And if the worst case scenario happens and the CBA negotiations fall apart, the Kings won't be playing anyway. At least a good lockout saves you money...


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