Playing in front of approximately 68,500 fans in a state-of-the-art outdoor venue is intriguing to the San Jose Sharks for reasons that go beyond ticket sales and setting attendance records for hockey games played in California.
"There is a halo effect that happens when you host these games," Sharks chief operating officer John Tortora said.
Tortora was talking about the aftershocks teams can experience because of their participation as the host club in one of the marquee events on the NHL's regular-season calendar. The Sharks are hoping to reap those rewards now that the NHL has officially announced San Jose will host the Los Angeles Kings in a 2015 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series™ game at Levi's Stadium on Feb. 21, 2015.
Levi's Stadium, located in Santa Clara, California, is the new home for the NFL's San Francisco 49ers. It is located approximately 8.5 miles from SAP Center at San Jose.
"Excited and looking forward to it," Sharks forward Logan Couture told the San Jose Mercury News. "I've watched most of the outdoor games and have always hoped we would get one."
Tortora explained the Sharks won't gain revenue from tickets sold for the game at Levi's Stadium; instead, the NHL will reimburse the team for the ticket revenue it loses by moving one of its 41 home games out of SAP Center. However, Tortora said a value can't yet be placed on what the Sharks and the city of San Jose will gain by hosting what is currently one of two outdoor games the NHL has scheduled in the 2014-15 season.
The Washington Capitals will host the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2015 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic on Jan. 1 at a still to-be-determined venue in the Washington D.C. area.
"The exposure that we're going to get, not only for us but for the city of San Jose, is tremendous," Tortora said. "We'll get media exposure across the U.S. and Canada. That's going to lead to perhaps additional sponsorship, perhaps more season-ticket holders over time, just more general interest in the sport of hockey and the Sharks, which is positive."
So too, according to Tortora, is the fact that the NHL chose to hold the event at Levi's Stadium instead of AT&T Park, the 41,503-seat home of Major League Baseball's San Francisco Giants.
Tortora said the sightlines at a football-only venue such as Levi's Stadium provide a better viewing experience for fans than if the game were played at a baseball-only venue. The fact that the seating capacity inside Levi's Stadium is approximately 40 percent larger than AT&T Park was of obvious importance to the Sharks as well.
"This game is about our fan base," Tortora said. "Our fan base has been supporting us through the years, through good times and through bad times, and they've been very consistent, loyal and emotional about their support. We wanted to have as many people as possible to have the ability to attend this game. Going to a 68,500-seat stadium afforded us that opportunity. We thought that was a positive."
Tortora said the Sharks are "very confident" the game will be a sellout. He noted that ticket prices will range from $65-$350, with the average ticket costing $150. Tortora said 44 percent of the tickets will be priced in the $65, $85 and $100 range, and 67 percent of the tickets will be priced at or below the average ticket price of $150.
"Clearly AT&T Park would have been a fantastic choice as well, but this event is more than the venue," Tortora said. "It's about celebrating the game of hockey and being able to deliver a unique product to as many of our fans as possible."
If it's the success Tortora and the Sharks expect it to be, the hope is the NHL will consider a return to the Bay Area for another outdoor game, perhaps at AT&T Park. Chicago has already hosted two outdoor games, an NHL Winter Classic game at Wrigley Field in 2009 and a NHL Stadium Series™ game at Soldier Field last season. Yankee Stadium hosted two NHL Stadium Series™ games last season.
"The League is not immune to going back to cities if the game was successful in the first instance," Tortora said. "We think the game will be successful and we have the benefit of two great facilities between Levi's Stadium and AT&T Park, so the League has options."
Author: Dan Rosen | NHL.com Senior Writer