There are two things every professional sports franchise must do in order to continue growing as an organization: win games in their home venue and take care of their fan base. The two go hand-in-hand, the more games you win, the more fans you attract. Once you’ve pulled those fans in by winning games, you work to create a special bond with those fans, you take care of those fans by offering the best possible ticketing options and keeping prices down, then you reinvest the revenue generated by those fans back into the team and the venue.
For the past couple of seasons in Nashville, the Predators have been able to accomplish all of the tasks above, while strengthening that bond with their fan base. With that growth, a more stable business platform has emerged; allowing the front office to do everything in its power to stay competitive on the ice and the “seventh man” has returned the favor by showing unwavering support for their hometown team and growing its ranks. But with the success comes an increased demand for tickets, not only from the Nashville market but from other markets around the League, and the Predators have had to respond to that demand with new ticketing policy which bundles tickets to their most in demand games.
“Our passionate fan base continues to grow thanks to our on-ice successes, our offseason additions and the growth of the organization as a whole,” Nashville Predators President Sean Henry said. “Our attendance has been steadily increasing over the past several years, from just a couple of sellouts a few seasons ago, to the highest average attendance in franchise history at more than 99 percent capacity. What we are seeing in Smashville is similar to teams who – while they may have struggled to fill their buildings just a handful of years ago – now must package tickets or place prospective season ticket holders on wait lists because the demand is so high. We are doing this to build something special – to add value and to thank our fans who pack the building night in and night out, and to provide them with the best possible game experience.”
The packaging of tickets or use of dynamic ticket pricing isn’t a new phenomenon. Nashville has used dynamic pricing for years, but the effects of the new bundling process may be perplexing. Ticket bundling is used to target fans who only want tickets to certain games, in this case the Chicago games, but rather than having the ticket demand raise prices on everyday Preds fans, the team uses bundling and dynamic pricing to recoup money from one-time buyers, which ultimately saves their loyal fans money.
In response to the droves of Chicago fans, the Predators are now packaging all single-game tickets against the Blackhawks with other games during the 2013-14 season. Meaning, no matter where you live, whether it’s Brentwood, Tenn. or Aurora, Ill., if you want to buy single-game tickets to a Preds vs. Blackhawks game, you will have to buy two tickets: one to the Preds-Hawks game of your choice (Saturday, Nov. 16; Tuesday, Dec. 17; or Saturday, April 12) and another paired with a predetermined Preds game at some point during the season. The ticket prices for those second games come at a fairly reasonable rate of $60 for lower bowl and $30 for upper bowl and will not be subject to the premium fee that goes hand-in-hand with the Blackhawks games.
Forcing the purchase of a second game is nothing new in sports; this is simply the first time the Predators have found themselves in the position to use this type of pricing model: the Miami Dolphins often package tickets when the New England Patriots come to town, the Edmonton Oilers had eight games on their 2011-12 slate that required additional game purchases, Maple Leafs fans are faced with similar problems when traveling to Buffalo and even Tennessee Titans fans traveling to other markets have been subjected to similar ticketing policies in the past.
Given the examples throughout the sports world, the Predators are responding to the new demand in the appropriate manner – generating more revenue off individual games, while awarding their season ticket holders and fans with a better pricing environment while still growing revenue, which will, in turn, allow the team greater flexibility in the long term.
While this new ticket packaging policy is great for Nashville fans, it isn’t necessarily sitting well with many fans in the greater Chicago area, or even some fans who call Nashville home. But this isn’t a vendetta against visiting fans; this is about protecting Preds fans and giving those fans the best opportunity to select as many games as possible before fans from outside markets hoard all the tickets to the premium match ups.
No matter the market, the defending Cup Champions and teams with today’s superstars like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin draw a crowd, we get that. And that Nashville, which is one of the nicer cities for fans to visit no matter what time of year, is one of the easiest trips for visiting fans to make. But in light of this new ticketing policy, some suggest that the Predators are reliant upon Chicago fans, or Pittsburgh fans, or Detroit fans, or any fans other than Predators fans to hit revenue and to sell-out games.
From 2009-2013, the Predators sold-out a combined 65 games, but only faced the Blackhawks 11 times in the Music City, selling out just eight of those contests.
The atmosphere created by the fans at Bridgestone Arena during a Nashville Predators game is unlike any other in the NHL, and it has become well-known fact throughout the League that the arena affectionately known as “Smashville” is not a place you want to come into if you wear anything other than Predators’ gold. Home-ice advantage is something the Predators and their loyal legion of fans have prided themselves on for years – from the TV timeout standing ovations to the European soccer-style chants resonating from Section 303.
“This is a loud building… it gives them a lot of energy,” Jonathan Toews, captain of the Chicago Blackhawks, said following a game in Nashville in 2012.
NBC Sports Analyst, Pierre McGuire, also applauded Nashville during a trip in 2011.
"I was blown away by how many people enjoy this team, by how many people care about the future of this franchise, and by the passion of their fan base. This is a winner. Nashville is a winner. Hats off to Gary Bettman. He had the vision to let this thing play itself out. It’s playing itself out right now."
The Predators on-ice success is fueled by a deafening Bridgestone Arena full of fans decked out in Predators’ gold. The home-ice advantage at Bridgestone Arena has positioned Nashville as the only team in the NHL to post at least 23 home wins in seven consecutive full seasons. The Predators have also posted the fourth-most home victories (192) since the 2005-06 season, behind only Detroit, San Jose and Vancouver.
Since 2009-10, the Predators have seen an exponential increase in attendance each season due, in part, to the team’s success on the ice as well as a renewed commitment from ownership and the organization to its fan base and to the city.
The legion of fans is still growing and it is evidenced by steadily increasing average attendance over the past few seasons and back-to-back years of record-setting attendance and sellout games. While the four sellouts during the 2009-10 season were franchise a low, they still filled the building to 87.5 percent capacity. In their 15-year history, the Predators have never seen average attendance dip below 76 percent in a season, and they recorded their highest average attendance (99.2 percent capacity) in 2012-13.
In 2010-11, the sellout number hit 16 in a full 41-game schedule, with an average attendance of 94.3 percent. That number jumped to a record 25 in 2011-12, while average attendance also jumped to 97.5 percent. In the shortened 2012-13 season, Nashville hit 20 sellouts in 24 home games.
The Predators have traveled the route of targeting the droves of visiting fans before, most recently during the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs against Detroit. During that series, Nashville offered to a 50 percent discount to anyone willing to exchange their winged wheel for a Pred head. And after swapping out more than 300 jerseys, defeating the Wings in the postseason and Detroit’s subsequent move to the Eastern Conference, the Preds have now set their sights on keeping another shade of red out of the building.
As with any professional hockey team, home-ice advantage is an important thing to the Nashville Predators and their loyal fans, and “Keep the Red Out” is just another way to ensure the Bridgestone Arena ice stays slanted in the Predators direction.
How Does This Policy Impact Fans
The Predators are doing just as Henry said; they are trying to provide their fans, their loyal legion, with the best opportunity to scoop up big ticket games before they become available to those outside the Predators reach. Will this cause some issues for a few Predators single-game ticket buyers? Perhaps, but only those looking to buy one specific game per season. Thanking those fans who purchase tickets all season long is the way to create a thriving franchise.
“We are fortunate to be in a situation where our tickets are in such high demand, and that is directly related to the passion and loyalty of our fans,” Nashville Predators Executive Vice President Chris Parker said. “We want to continue strengthening our tremendous home-grown fan base, and get to the position enjoyed by many traditional markets, which boast multiple generations of fans. We do that by awarding our fans with the best and most affordable ticket opportunities, and by making out-of-market fans – from places like Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, etc. – pay just a little more to come see their teams play in Nashville.”
Other than keeping foreign jerseys out of Bridgestone Arena and controlling home-ice advantage, the Preds system of packaging game tickets provides the greatest value to their life blood – the season ticket holder fan base. Under the new policy, season ticket holders and local Predators fans will be given the first opportunity – during the presale periods – to select single-game tickets with better pricing.
As always, the best ticketing option is to purchase a season ticket plan (full, half or 15-game), as prices to all games, including premium games like those against the Blackhawks are significantly lower – nearly a 40 percent discount in many cases – than single-game ticket buyers. Season ticket holders will be able to purchase additional single-game tickets, including those against the Blackhawks, beginning on August 26, and will receive those tickets at a discounted rate. This is just the next step in making season tickets packages more valuable, while enabling the Predators to grow as a franchise just as Chicago has done in recent years under the same philosophy.
After tickets to these games are offered to season ticket holders, suite holders and sponsors, they will become available to fans in the local area only at the Bridgestone Arena box office on September 7. Following the Bridgestone Arena box office on-sale, ticket sales will then be open only to the Nashville viewing area via zip code restrictions for a 48-hour period beginning on September 9.
Single-game tickets that are available for purchase on those early September dates will be at a baseline price and will not be affected by out-of-market demand; however, the multiple ticket purchase policy for Blackhawks games will apply to fans purchasing tickets during these periods.
The world-wide on-sale will commence on Friday, Sept. 13, after Preds fans in the local area have been afforded the opportunity to select the best available seats at the most affordable price. Variable/dynamic pricing will apply to those tickets just as they have in years past and local fans that do not purchase tickets during the presale times listed above will be subject to increased ticket prices.
This ticket bundling policy has not been designed to keep out-of-market fans out of the building, but it has been put in place to give local fans every opportunity to purchase season ticket packages and single-game tickets to those premium games before they are scooped up by droves of fans from outside markets.
Your Guide to the Predators Ticket Sale:
•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, 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
What If I Don’t Want To Use My Additional Ticket(s)
Come out and experience another Predators game at Bridgestone Arena, if you can, but for those fans that choose not use the second ticket, the Preds have come up with several ways to pay it forward.
“We’ve come up with a solution for those fans that cannot use the second ticket purchased with their Chicago ticket,” Nashville Predators’ Vice President of Ticket Sales Nat Harden said. “We want to be able to allow people to donate to those – youth organizations, charities and members of our military – who wouldn’t normally be able to attend a Predators game. Additionally, season ticket holders who may have previously sold their unused tickets on a secondary market can now donate or sell those tickets back to the team for select games through our buy back program and get them back into the hands Preds fans.”
The Predators have instituted a “buy back” program which will offer full-credit to season ticket holders who cannot attend select games due to whatever reason. Along with the full-credit buy back on your unused tickets, a Smashville Rewards bonus (500 points per seat) will be applied to those season ticket holder accounts that use the buy back program. The Predators will then take those unused tickets from season ticket holders and place them back into the ticketing pool for the respective games.
An additional option for fans who buy the package deal for Blackhawks games, but cannot use the second ticket, is to donate that ticket to a charity of your choice or the Predators’ military ticketing program, which provides tickets to families stationed at nearby military bases. Any ticket donation will be tax deductible and the Preds will provide the appropriate documentation to those individuals who decide to donate their seats.
So What Now
This program isn’t a way for the Predators to “stick it” to Blackhawks fans and it certainly isn’t the only way to sell out the building. The Preds are simply trying to repay their fan base for being loyal and for making Bridgestone Arena the hardest place to play in the National Hockey League. The Preds aren’t trying to discourage Blackhawks fans from visiting Nashville, and they don’t expect this plan to deter them, but if one effect of bundling tickets is to help “Keep the Red Out” then the Preds are happy to keep the balance of power in Bridgestone Arena where it belongs – with the “Seventh Man.”