|The Senators want to make it easier for more fans to get the opportunity to see captain Daniel Alfredsson and his Ottawa teammates display their talents (Getty Images).
The Ottawa Senators want to make it easier for more fans to throw season-long support behind the National Hockey League team.
Senators president Cyril Leeder said today the organization is in the process of formulating a new ticket pricing structure that should end the "confusion" a number of fans say are preventing them from attending games at Scotiabank Place.
"We’re probably going to make some changes fairly soon in our ticket packages and prices and get that right," Leeder told the media earlier today. "We don’t think that pricing (structure) is right. It’s not in touch with today’s times. People are more value-oriented and we may be outthinking ourselves and some of our fans, so we’re going to address that right away."
Currently, the Senators offer five levels of pricing – platinum, gold, silver, bronze and Subway Savings – with 14 price points available in each category.
"So there’s 70 different price points for Senators games this year and that’s too many," said Leeder. "We know that and we’re going to address that."
Heading into tonight's matchup with the Pittsburgh Penguins at Scotiabank Place, the Senators have attracted 217,838 fans to 12 home games. That's an average of 18,153, which is exactly 1,000 short of the building's listed capacity. Only two sellouts have been recorded so far, with a high of 20,154 for an Oct. 24 game against the Boston Bruins.
In 2008-09, the Senators averaged 19,081 per game, with 19 sellouts in 40 games. Ottawa sold out 38 of its 41 home games in 2007-08 in the wake of its run to the Stanley Cup final the season before. The record season-ticket base the team had then has declined to about 10,000 now, a number Leeder said the Senators need to rebuild.
Not coincidentally, Ottawa missed the playoffs last season for the first time since 1995-96, ending a run of 11 straight post-season appearances. In 2007-08, the Senators were swept in the first round by the Penguins.
"It's about what we expected," said Leeder. "Our attendance tends to trail behind team performance, so our season seats are down based, I think, on last year's performance and they were down the year before. So we’ve got a two-year cumulative effect here where our season-ticket base is down. That’s really our focus. We’ve got to rebuild that."
But Leeder said the organization can't and won't let the Senators' on-ice performance be a barometer for ticket sales.
"Winning is the most important marketing tonic that you have in sports," he said. "We don’t use that as an excuse and we can’t use that as an excuse, that we have to have a winning team every year to be successful. That shouldn’t be the way that we operate our organization, but it is important.
"If there’s any disappointment at our end, it’s that our team is better this year – we all know we’re better this year – and we don’t have the results in attendance. But it tends to lag a year with the season seat holders and we need to be building that base for this year and for next year with our season seat holders."
With that thought in mind, the Senators have been conducting surveys and meeting with focus groups to get the opinions of current and former season-ticket holders. What isn't concerning them, Leeder said, is the cost of coming to games.
"We’re probably going to make some changes fairly soon in our ticket packages and prices and get that right," Leeder told the media earlir today. "We don’t think that pricing (structure) is right. It’s not in touch with today’s times. People are more value-oriented and we may be outthinking ourselves and some of our fans, so we’re going to address that right away." - Cyril Leeder
"The consistent message we're hearing back is we want to go to the games, so make it easy for me to decide and make it easy for me to get to the games," he said. "They like our team; they think our team is hard-working and a tougher team. It's a team they like to get behind. Our casual sales are up and our suite sales are up, so our focus is how do we rebuild our season-ticket base and find a way to get more people into the building.
"Do (fans) find our ticket prices high? No. And we're asking people 'is price a problem' and the answer is no. (The price structure) can be confusing at times. They'd like to see more of a relationship with our team."
The Senators started addressing the latter issue with the unveiling of a number of Fans First initiatives last season, which have been carried over into the current campaign. A luncheon was held earlier today at Scotiabank Place, during which season-ticket holders took part in a panel discussion that included executives from the Senators and the Penguins. Earlier luncheons this season have featured Ottawa players.
What's encouraging for the organization is that season-ticket numbers have been slowly creeping up and Leeder said "we're adding new people every day."
"It’s gone up every month since March, so for me and our organization, that’s encouraging," he said. "We’d like it to go up faster but if our season seat base goes up on a regular basis, slowly and surely we’re going to be fine. We’ve got to stick to our plan but if our pricing is preventing people from becoming season-ticket holders and it’s confusing, we’ve got to fix that."