On Friday afternoon I received an email from the Oilers with a link to a survey on seating option and prices for the new downtown arena. This same email was sent to every season ticket holder - I believe there are 4,500 in total - but the prices included in the surveys weren't all the same. Now work has been keeping me pretty busy these days, but even during a busy day that's the kind of email that gets my attention, and so I clicked the link and took the survey. I also took screenshots of each of the seating options because I thought others might be interested and that's where I left things, I didn't think it was much of a story. Apparently I was wrong.
Since Friday I've done interviews with CTV and Global News to discuss the survey, and was on CBC's Edmonton AM this morning too. As great as I think I am, and trust me, I think I'm all kinds of great, I've found all of this a little bizarre because we're talking about a survey and nothing more at this point. I found the seating options interesting but until prices are set in stone I'm not going to get too bent out of shape about anything. It seems fairly obvious that what the Oilers are trying to do with this survey is find the line between expensive and too expensive, which is just good business.
Part of my reaction might have been due to the fact that the prices in my survey for regular seats seemed quite reasonable, the luxury options are another story but I have no intention of purchasing those seats. My survey included two prices for tickets in the upper bowl: $1,950 in the ends and $2,900 between the faceoff dots. Given where I sit now that would actually be less than I paid this season (here are the 2014/15 season ticket prices for reference). Of course, as nice as it would be, I don't believe that the prices in my survey will be in any way similar to what the final prices will be when Rogers Place opens. I've long expected an increase of 15-20% in the new arena (similar to Pittsburgh) and I wouldn't be surprised if it was a little higher.
For the last 15 years season ticket prices have typically increased 3-5% a season, not at all unreasonable, the lone exception being before the 2006/07 season when the increase was, I think, closer to 10%. Why the big jump that season? Because following a run to the Stanley Cup Finals demand was at it highest in years, and so the cost went up. And in a new arena the demand for tickets will once again be very high, and the prices will once again increase substantially. It's supply and demand at work. And no, the on-ice product won't matter. There's a waiting list for season tickets that's over 1,500 people deep, people who paid $200 to get their name on the list and $50 annually to keep it there. For every person that's had enough and walks away, there are dozens waiting and willing to take their place. Eventually this might change but it won't be until at least a couple years after the new arena opens its door.
It is unfortunate that some fans will be priced out of the new arena. And it's unfortunate that the culture at games will shift from families and small business corporate tickets (something I've always loved) to big businesses corporate tickets. But this is the arena we agreed to build, and, like it or not, tickets for games in a world class arena with world class amenities come at a world class price. If any of this is shocking to you I don't know what to tell you, this was always the way it was going to play out. If you don't like it, the only suggestion I have is to not buy tickets, if enough people follow your lead then the market will adjust and the price will come down. But like so many that said they wouldn't come back after another lockout, I'll believe it when I see it.