Preseason is two weeks away and training camp begins today for the rookies as they report for physicals. Hockey as played by our favorite team is imminent. With games happening soon, important business has come up: tickets. On Thursday, the New Jersey Devils will open up single ticket sales to the public. The official website has a new seating chart up with a schedule and tiered pricing so you can plan well in advance how much you want to spend on Devils hockey if you just want to buy a game here and there. At first glance, it's very confusing. I found it to be confusing. After playing around with the information, I'd like to present an overview as far as what's changed from the 2013 season.
The New Tiers
For starters, there are now five tiers: Rival, Elite, Premier, Classic, and Special. Rival and Elite are new. Rival, as a name, is right to the point. It's a special tier for home games against one opponent and one opponent only: the New York Rangers. You know, Our Hated Rivals. The organization knows these games are pretty much guaranteed sell outs; so they're going to try and maximize revenue. If those from a certain city want to visit the Rock, then they're going to have to pay a premium. I would also take it as further evidence that the Devils believe they have one main rival. It's not plural.
The new Elite tier is essentially a boosted version of the Premier tier from the last two seasons. They're all games at the end of the week against opponents that matter in some way or form. They include both home games against the Penguins and the Isles. They include visits from Detroit, L.A., and Chicago. They even have a Philly, Washington, and Boston home game as well. Oh, and Minnesota for some reason. In total, there are eleven home games under this tier and I would say it's closer to the old Premier tier than the new one. Had the Devils not open up their structure, then they likely would have fallen into that area.
The Premier, Classic, and Special tiers return. Premier now makes up the plurality of the Devils' forty home games - remember, one home game is the Outdoor Series game in Yankee Stadium - this season. They're spread throughout the week and most of the opponents will be interesting except for possibly Edmonton. One of the home games against the Flyers gets this designation, the only former Atlantic Division opponent to do so. I suppose this is a sign that the organization agrees that they are the Second Rate Rivals. Classic and Special are mostly mid-week games and so single game tickets from the team are cheaper.
When looking at the total number of tiered games by day, the Devils' plan is clear. They're banking on the Friday and Saturday home games to be better draws in general so they're charging the higher prices. There are few Elite and Premier games outside of the Friday and weekend for a reason. In terms of month, the Devils don't appear to be adjusting tiers. They're letting date and perhaps quality of opponent determine the tier in my opinion.
Seating Chart Changes
Before I jump into the various prices per tier, it's worth noting that the Devils have made some changes to their seating chart. They've sectioned off the balcony as a different area now with only two pricing sections. The lower bowl got rid of Maroon and Rust Upper Level; the upper parts of Sections 6 and 21 are now Yellow. They've re-done the 200 sections in the mezzanine for pricing. The Brown section is now gone, the corners have been split up. The non-attacking corner sections plus the two next to it on each side are now Fuchsia, which is the cheapest pricing section. The 208 and 233 sections are Turquoise, like all but the very middle sections in the 200s. Sections 212 and 229 remain as Green from 2013. The biggest shift is in the club seating as the middle club sections have a new Charcoal area from what appears to be the middle up until the second row. The first rows at the Acela Club and Goal Bar have each been split off into their own pricing sections. Everything else remains the same from this past season.
The general impression I got was that the Devils are charging a bit more for the end that the team will attack twice. The defending end has the cheapest 200 sections, the lower bowl keeps a Gray section that is now different from this season's Rust section, and Sections 10 and 17 do not have a more expensive section higher up like Sections 6 and 21 do. This will be more apparent in the upcoming charts.
Single Ticket Prices - Comparison with 2013
Each section has it's own price for each tier. There aren't any tiers or sections that share the exact same price. There are modifications and adjustments everywhere since there are a considerable number of Elite and Premier games. These different tiers do show a substantial difference in cost compared to what games would have been last season. I did make a few assumptions in making the following price comparisons from this past season. First, I'm assuming that Rival and Elite games would have otherwise been Premier games so I'm going to compare single game ticket price tiers in that sense. Second, I'm assuming that Fuchsia would have been Dark Green last year - not a corner section. If you were in those upper corner sections on a single game ticket, then assume your prices went up since they were so cheap for so long. The same goes for the upper parts of Sections 6 and 21; I'm going to compare this year's Yellow to last year's Yellow prices. Lastly, I'm not planning on comparing season ticket prices since they're not readily available right now. That may come later. Even then, I can't account for those who have been on a plan - like myself - and took the option of bringing credit over to this year due to the lockout.
Let's start with the Rival tier
Again, the Devils clearly want to maximize their revenue against the Rangers. Outside of the club sections, only those in Fuchsia that weren't in the corners will see a small drop in price. Everyone else not in the club sections will have to pay more than what they would have last season for a single game ticket against Our Hated Rivals.
In the club sections, we some big changes in pricing. You'll see this in the other tiers so I'll touch on it now. It's plain as day that the Devils want more people to go to the Acela Club. They really charged a lot for a single game there in 2013. In the most expensive tier, that section has the biggest reduction in price. That will continue through the other tiers. The split in the section is also not insignificant. Here it's a $25 difference just within itself. In comparison to last year, it's a big drop off. Of course, that may not be so big if you're already willing to spend that much to sit in those sections. Well, save for the Goal Bar, which will be more apparent at the other tiers.
The Elite tier is more in line with the Premier tier from 2013 if you're looking for a ticket in the lower bowl. They haven't changed from a single game ticket standpoint. Correction: I got the lower bowl ticket prices for this tier in 2013-14 wrong in the initial post. Sorry about that. Most of the Lower Bowl sections will see an increase a few dollars except for the Gray section. Those rows behind the Devils' goaltender for the first and third periods actually get a bit of a decrease.
This season is going to be more expensive for most of those looking for a seat in the upper levels. That's a bit of a disappointment especially since there are eleven games in this tier. On the flipside, the Club seats all see a large reduction except for a slight increase for the people along the glass - the Gold section, also known as the front row - and the first row of the Goal Bar. Notice that rows 2 and 3 of the Goal Bar are closer to the price of a seat in the Yellow section. Surely, that has to be intentional to entice some more people to get there.
More games are in this tier than any other and it is here where the savings really show up almost across the board for the single game ticket buyer. Hence, the inclusion of "Mostly Reduced" in the title. There are only two sections only section that doesn't see a reduction in direct comparison with last season's prices. The first is the tiny Maroon section, which sees a three dollar increase. The second are the Light Blue sections in the Mezzanine, which are the 100s with the exception of the center sections (111, 112, 128, 129). Their prices stay the same. Again, it's "mostly," not completely.
Everyone else will save something, ranging from a few bucks to several. In fact, everyone in the Club and Lower Level sections saves at least $15 in single game prices. That's rather big reduction from last season's Premier tier, and again, the organization clearly wants more people in the Acela Club. Given that these games are no longer actually the premier games. They're mostly games on Friday and Saturday plus a few good visits like Montreal. Therefore, the organization was right to bring down the prices. Of course, the Elite and Rival tiers take up what otherwise would be Premier-level games and charge more per game so the effect of the savings isn't as vast.
The Classic tier games really needs a better title. There are seven games, one each against the following opponents: Nashville, Ottawa, Dallas, Columbus, Boston, Phoenix, and Calgary. Hardly classics. The good news is that this season's Classic tier is priced lower than 2013's tier nearly across the board. The amount of savings ranges, but it's a price reduction all the same at the single ticket game level. That makes sense since, well, they're not exactly enticing match-ups on days that don't tend to draw as many people. Club seating sees the largest drop, led by the Acela Club; but the Lower Levels and Balcony sections benefit this season as well. Like the 2013-14 Premier tier, these savings aren't as pronounced over a season. More games were pushed up so there are only seven games in the Classic tier this year. It's no longer the "mid-level" standard tier; that's the role of the Premier tier for this season. Still, reductions are reductions.
Again, the lone exception is that first row in the middle sections in the 100s sees a rise in price. I'm sure it's a great view; but is it enough to charge significantly higher prices than the rest of the Mezzanine seats? Especially compared to, say, the first row in the other 100s? I leave that up to you, the ticket buyer.
Lastly, the Special tier for those weeknight games that really don't jump off the page - sorry, Winnipeg! - doesn't have comprehensive savings from last season. Some sections have higher prices compared to last season. The Gold section sees the largest increase by $25, followed by the Maroon section with a bump of $11. The other increases aren't as massive. It seems to me they are more adjustments than anything else. By my reading of this, I think organization wants to push more people in the Balcony, which is why it's straight up cheaper than the 100s. That's not a bad idea. The first few rows of those sections are really good for being at an end of the rink, in my opinion.
Speaking of other ideas that aren't bad, the second and third rows of the Goal Bar is quite a bit below $100. That should make spending for a game there more affordable, which is a good get since it has direct access to a bar, nice seats, and a mid-level view. And if you and your party doesn't mind spending a bit more, the Acela Club awaits at it's cheaper option. Might as well have a meal on a Tuesday night against Tampa Bay.
The New Jersey Devils can credibly claim that they have reduced ticket prices for most games in this coming season. They have done so for the majority of sections for the majority of home games. As a fan, I'm never going to complain about that. Even though I'm a season ticket holder, what's good for the single game ticket buyer is good for me as season ticket prices tend to run cheaper per game. I know most at the Rock aren't there on a plan of sorts so I do think many will benefit for most of the home games this season. This is quite good given that the team raised most ticket prices coming out of the Incredibly Stupid Lockout of 2012.
However, it's important to note that those savings are conditional depending on what tier the game is in and what section. The most desirable game at the Rock has a tier of it's own and it's the highest prices available. Given how much Our Hated Rivals charge for tickets in their own building, I don't doubt that there will be fans still willing to show up. I just hope the attempt at maximizing revenue doesn't blow up a bit in their own face. The Elite tier has justifiably good games either by way of the quality of opponent or the day of the week they're playing. Some of the seated saw an increase and given that it's a tier for eleven games, that's nothing to fully ignore. Only the Acela Club sections and the back part of the Goal Bar section see price decreases regardless of tier, but again, those cheaper tickets still have a high price in general so it's a question as to whether it's enough to entice more people to check out a game there. The Devils are hoping the answer is yes. This isn't to throw cold water on these released prices; it's just that the buyer should be aware that it's not a fully comprehensive cut in all ticket prices. (Of course, this may be moot if one uses a third-party buyer like StubHub anyway but nevermind that.)
I will throw some cold water on now with the warning that these prices will likely not last. Should the team draw as well as the team thinks they can or better and management will look to raise prices. They may make adjustments to give an incentive for fans to buy tickets in other sections, but I doubt there will be further cuts. Should the Devils' ticketing plans work, then they have the justification to raise them to increase revenue overall. Will it work? It's another open question as to how well attendance will go this season. The team drew well in 2013 despite not making the playoffs. But they also didn't have to deal with football, the schedule isn't shortened so there isn't a feeling of "every game counts," and all of their opponents were in the East. In 2013-14, they'll have fewer rivalry games, one less game at the Rock, games will compete with other sports in season, and the dates will be spread out throughout seven months. They also don't have a Big Name Player. Technically, they have two but they're both in their 40s so who knows how much of a draw that will be. I would guess that's why the Devils have cut single game prices for most of their home games in most sections after raising them ahead of a lockout-shortened season. It appears to me that they're doing that to counteract the other potential factors that could lead to reduced attendance. Time will tell how it works. The organization will start to see the sales that open on Thursday at 10 AM.