Since I know the comments are coming, before I even get started let me make a couple of things clear:
- No, I didn’t expect prices in Rogers Place to be less than the prices in Rexall.
- Yes, I still plan to be a season seat holder when the arena opens in October 2016.
With that out of the way, let’s talk about Oilers ticket prices for couple a minutes.
I was going to sit down and write this story on Friday when the Oilers released pricing information for Rogers Place to season ticket holders but I decided to wait instead. In part because I was busy over the weekend enjoying Interstellar Rodeo - my favourite summer event in Edmonton - but mostly because I wanted to take a couple days to make sure that I was able to express my thoughts on this clearly and concisely. I did of course still express my feelings on Twitter, and I also spoke to the Edmonton Journal and to the Metro. But I didn’t want to do anything here until I’d had a little more time to process and think through all of the information.
So, four days later what do I think about all of this? I’m still surprised.
When ticket prices were last a story, following the survey sent to season ticket holders in February (coincidentally also sent out on a Friday afternoon, almost as if the Oilers are trying to bury these stories as much as possible), I wrote that I expected ticket prices in the new arena to go up 15-20%; something similar to what Penguins fans saw in Pittsburgh when the Consol Energy Center opened in 2008. After learning that the increase for the upcoming season would be 7% or 8% for almost every seat in the building I started to think that 20% might even be a little high. I was wrong.
In Rexall Place I love my seat. I sit at the back of the second level, just below the goal line, at the end that the Oilers attack twice, with a beer vendor less than 20 steps away. It's the prefect seat location, and it will cost me $2432.70 next season. Looking at the Rogers Place seating diagram below, I think a similar seat will be found in Section 205 or 217; the location of the nearest beer vendor is currently unknown. And that similar seat will now cost $3875.00; an increase of nearly 60%. If I wanted to keep the aisle seat that I currently have, the increase would be 67%.
If I wanted to move over one section into either 216 or 206 I would be able to get a similar seat for a similar price to what I pay now. Assuming of course that I'm able to get a seat in either of those sections, something that is far from guaranteed since I'm not alone in seeing this kind of increase and likely not alone in thinking about moving.
To get an idea of just how many fans are looking at a similar increase I used a Rexall Place seating chart from the Oilers and Ticketmaster's interactive seat map to calculate the numbers of seats. Obviously an apples-to-apples comparison won't be easy since we don't know how many rows are in each section and the section layouts vary between buildings. To come up with a total number I assumed the following:
- Seats in Rexall Place in Sections 201-205, 216-222, and 233-236 would have comparable seats somewhere in Sections 201-205, 217-222, and 234 in Rogers Place.
- Colonnade level pricing is applicable for all second level seats in Rows 32 and above.
Using those assumptions I counted a total of 1669 seats in the Colonnade level on the sides of the rink in Rexall Place, there are another 1354 in the 300 level. Combined, these two groups account for almost one-in-five seats in Rexall Place and these ticket holders will all see substantial increases. The vast majority of ticket holders on the sides of the arena in Colonnade level will see an increase of either 59% or 85% should they choose to occupy a similar seat in Rogers Place, a few lucky ones will only have to cough up 34% more. And those in the cheap seats are actually much worse off. Just getting into the building will cost an additional 32%. If you're not interested in sitting behind the net the increase will be at least 119%.
I'm not writing this to complain about the price of tickets though. The Oilers are a business not a charity and they have every right to make as much money as the market will allow. I do have trouble visualizing the demand for some of these seats and price levels, especially with oil below $50 a barrel, but I assume that the Oilers understand the demand for tickets better than I do and that the demand will be there. And when there is high demand and limited supply, the cost of tickets will go up, that's the reality of supply and demand, something that I have no interest in trying to change. But having seen these prices and thinking about them for a few days, I do find it interesting that some of the biggest increases are being handed to the seats that I would expect are most likely to be occupied by people rather than a business or corporation.
As bad as the Oilers have been on the ice for the last decade, I've always felt that off the ice that the team did a very good job of appreciating and acknowledging the support of their season tickets holders. Without that support the front office changes that we saw this summer might have happened sooner, but year after year the fans kept coming. Year after year the cost of tickets went up, and still the fans kept coming. If you're a business writing of the cost of tickets an expense those increases might not be a big deal, but for individuals and families those are not insignificant costs. And now, when it finally looks like the Oilers might be turning a corner, those same people are being asked to pay some of the biggest percentage increases when the team moves to their new home.
I'll leave it up to you to decide whether this is right or wrong, but as one of the people impacted in this way, I can tell you that I am surprised.