For the unaware, I'm not just some New Jersey Devils fan with plenty (too much?) to write about my favorite team. I am a full season ticket holder and a New Jersey Devils fan with plenty to write about my favorite team. My seat is in Section 1, Row 16, Seat 5. I am fortunate that with my current status, I can afford the time and money to pay for forty-one games in the lower bowl (plus three preseason games) and attend just about all of them. I am also aware that I'm not that common. A lot of people that afford the money may not have the time or desire to go see a team that missed the playoffs in four out of the last five seasons. A lot of people that may have the time and/or the desire to see this team play may not have the money. And that's just fine; they are Devils fans all the same. However, it and several other factors results in attendance issues.
On this past Friday, the Devils announced their first sell-out of the season. It took timing (Friday night game), a significant contingent of fans supporing the opposition (Chicago), and a lowering of the arena's capacity. The Devils are now using 16,514 as the maximum. In the prior two seasons, it was 16,592. From 2007 through to 2013, it was 17,625. Filling the Rock has always been a challenge, especially early in the season when professional football is active. The Devils also had to compete with a World Series not too far away for the first month or so. That said, it's been my opinion that a big reason why attendance has struggled are the ticket prices. For a team that has been in the playoffs only twice this decade (2010, 2012), the Devils have charged quite a pretty penny for someone to attend games.
Up until 2013, I did a round-up of the ticket prices for both the single game and season ticket holder. I broke down what they were in each section and how they compared to prior years, section-by-section. The Devils introduced tiered pricing for games several years ago, so I included that as well. I did not do that last year or this year because the source of all of this information - the Devils' official website - stopped posting it.
What has replaced it? There is this vague seating chart that tells you what the sections are. It does not tell you important pieces of information such as what row is in what color or how much different prices are in each section. There's a section for individual tickets, but it just tells you the time, date, opponent, promotion, and a Ticketmaster link to buy tickets - nothing about prices or tiers. There's a 3D map that I don't think is consistent with that seating chart. Section 2 on the seating chart has two sections beyond the glass, the map has three. That 3D map is probably out of date. The team hypes up Devils Membership, which has flex plans and season ticket packages. But to get any details on how much that will cost, you need to contact them and/or get in their system.
I honestly don't know who in their sales or marketing department thought this is all good. For the prospective buyer, one of the most important pieces of information to know is the price of the tickets. How much a ticket will cost will drive people to decide where they want to sit, how many to get, and even if they want to go. Imagine going to a burger place and there's a menu with plenty of burger options but no prices. How does that help the customer? Why would the place think it's good or better service for the staff should give you the prices on an as-requested basis? Is it a quote? Is it negotiable? Hardly. Say what you want about the Vanderbeek era of ownership, but you didn't have to jump through many hoops to know how much it would cost to sit in Section 1, Row 16 for a game.
Fortunately, the Devils did provide some pricing information - perhaps not by choice. The season tickets have their price, the state tax, and city surcharge listed on each ticket. Keep in mind that the price of the ticket does not include the tax and surcharge. I decided to go through my whole stack of 41 games and list the prices for each game as well as whether it was a weekend game (Friday, Saturday, Sunday). If nothing else, you can use this as a guide for getting secondary market tickets in my general area so you don't get over-charged too much:
My season ticket invoice for 2015-16 came to $2,685.36. With the ticket prices summing up to $2,883 and the total prices summing to $3,124.47, this fuels my confidence that the listed prices on the tickets are for single-game use. In a way, this highlights part of the value of getting a season ticket or a package at season ticket prices. If you're planning to go to a lot of games and you want the same location, you'll save money that way over buying forty-one individual games in the same section of pricing. While the Devils would get more money out of me if I did that, chances are if I went down that route, I probably wouldn't be buying forty-one games. If I got sick or something else came up, I would just skip out on the game. As a season ticket holder, they get my money ahead of time and while it's a couple hundred less for them, they can count on it. It's part of their base for ticket revenue. So we both benefit.
Anyway, the biggest find for me was that the Devils clearly have six tiers of pricing for where I sit. In past seasons, the Devils had tiered prices based on the opponent and the day of game. It was applied consistently throughout the arena. The Tuesday night game against the Western opponent didn't cost as much as the Saturday night rivalry game. It made sense. I color-coded the 41 home games by the various tiers. Here's a breakdown of them, using the Devils' listed price (not the total price that includes tax and the city surcharge).
Since I don't know what the team will call them, here's how I'm going to designate them:
- The $57 level (for Section 1, Row 16) is the Weekday Tier. Nearly all of the other, more expensive tiers are dominated by games on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. These thirteen games are mostly against non-division opponents during the week. Notable dates: 12/17 for Florida which may feature Jaromir Jagr; 2/9 against Edmonton which will have Martin Brodeur's number retired; and 3/17 which may have Zach Parise come back with Minnesota. Weirdest date: 4/7 against Tampa Bay. Really? I know it's mid-week, but Stamkos & Co. only draw a low priced tier? Odd.
- The $63 level is the Weekend Bargain Tier. Seven of these ten games are at the ends of weeks and they include some tantalizing opponents such as Tampa Bay, Florida, Detroit, and Boston. Yes, those first two teams also appear in the lowest tier. Apparently, a weekend day of the week is worth an extra $6 on the base price for where I sit. Curiously, both of Detroit's games at the Rock are at this level despite the day of the week. Weirdest date: 11/25 against Columbus. Carolina and Columbus games are in these bottom tiers; but again, it would seem weekend = an increased tier. Except 11/25 is a Wednesday game with Columbus.
- The $74 level is the Middle Tier. Yes, this is a middle tier in a group of six; go with it. This level is presumably for more appealing opponents or dates. The recent game with Chicago was one of them. Opening and closing night are another. Weekend dates with Los Angeles, Washington, and Dallas are another. The odd one here is a 12/29 game with Carolina. That's a Tuesday night against the Hurricanes. Someone in Sales is banking on a holiday crowd to appear and pay must more than the lowest tier for Devils-Canes game in December on a Tuesday. I'm skeptical.
- The $80 level is the Weekend Top Tier. Only six games but they are some seriously interesting games. All of them are on weekends. Four of them are within the division, including a game against Philadelphia. The two that aren't are against Montreal (11/27) and Boston (1/8), two franchises with a long history and a fanbase that either travels or is present throughout the country. The only weird thing about it is there are none of these games after 2/19 or before 11/14. They're all right in the meat of the season.
- The $100 level is the Ludicrous Tier. There are only two of these games. One was Halloween afternoon against the Islanders. That was a dud. The other one is 3/6 against Pittsburgh. A weekend game against non-rival with their other home appearance also being on a weekend and at a tier lower. March 6 isn't a holiday or near one. It's not a big promotional date (Retro Nights are 2/16 against Philly and 3/17 against Minnesota - both lower tiered games). So why is this going to cost more money? I couldn't tell you why. This group is weird and bad. Finally...
- The $120 level is the Rangers Tier. Two Tuesday nights in February and the single game price to sit where I sit is $120 plus tax and a city surcharge. But because they're against the Rangers, the team is still betting on someone - a Devils fan, a visiting Rangers fan, a neutral - to pay a lot for these two dates. More than double the cost for the lowest tier. I am already predicting these games don't sell out.
Again, how much the tickets are listed will vary based on where you sit. But I don't think they coincidentally broke into six different distinct prices for tickets for where I sit. I believe these are the tiers the team is pricing for this season. And I'm really shocked that the Devils seem to make everything more and more complex when it comes to setting prices. The seating map has splintered off into a lot of colors without designating what rows they are or what prices they are. There are six tiers, double from the three that were announced when they started this. How some of those tiers are defined have some sense, but there are some real oddballs. And the higher ones are definitely nonsensical. Of course, I'm still relying on assumptions and putting colorful charts together based on my own tickets. All because basic information like how much does it cost to go to a Devils game isn't publicly available.
It's sad because the Devils have been playing more exciting hockey in the last two weeks. I don't think it'll last, but it's a good time as any to strike. Get people in the stadium. Get a good atmosphere, get people buying more things at the stadium, and not have to reduce capacity to make attendance percentages look better. Even with the Devils losing, maybe a few more will be willing to stick around because it's a new era and all of that. Especially if the team plays like their slogan. If they and their friends, significant others, family members, or others are not priced out from the start, it's possible. But I don't think it is with these tiers at these prices.
Maybe my prices didn't rise much from last year, they're certainly more expensive than 2013-14 and seasons before that. If it's this costly to sit where I sit - Section 1, Row 16 - and more so for certain games, then surely there's a similar structure for other areas. I do regret not realizing to do this until five weeks into 2015-16. At a minimum, at least you can use this information to not get gouged on the secondary market. At a maximum, well, if I can ever find out where what rows consist of each section, I can do some really fun things thanks to Ticketmaster. But I'll keep that idea to myself for now. Thanks for reading.