The last few years have been up and down when it comes to the Islanders and their season ticket pricing. Two years ago season ticket renewals that went out around this same time hit mailboxes with a loud thud. The team was asking for interest payments (!) on plans not paid by April 1. Fans voiced their displeasure and won. Wrote Chris Botta:
Presented with invoices for 2010-11 season tickets and an April 1 deadline before interest charges would kick in, several Islanders full season ticket package owners told the team they were mad as hell and would not take it any longer. Just as strong as the pushback, Islanders executives had to be concerned about the countless season subscribers they did not hear from in the days leading up to the full-payment deadline.
So with three days to spare, the franchise has relented – a victory for common sense and one of the most passionate fanbases in professional sports.
A year later and led by Michael Picker, the team did an impressive roll back on some seating areas dropping some $90 seats to $72 and others seeing $6 per game drops. Other sections where demand was higher did not get such price breaks. This was on the heels of a season where ticket sales bottomed out hard, thanks to a horrific losing streak in November.
According to ESPN, the Islanders averaged 11,059 fans per game last year, down from 12,735 in 2009-10 and the lowest number for the team since ESPN has tracked attendance.
So, it’s March again and renewal letters began to hit mailboxes this week after the team lost leads to two local rivals over the weekend; the Devils on Saturday and Rangers on Sunday. Make no mistake, the sales reps at the Coliseum were hoping that the team held on to win at the Garden on Sunday night. The timing of these letters hitting mailboxes is certainly poor and the tone of phone calls this week would have been better with a win over the Rangers (but everything is always better with a win over the Rangers).
The letters — an example to your right with names removed to protect the innocent — starts talking about the playoff chase and is dated March 9th. Point Blank hasn’t focused on the playoff push in a couple weeks, but by no means does that mean those doing otherwise were incorrect. Regardless, while the letters were sitting in the post office over the weekend, the Islanders slipped further out and fell to 10 points back with 13 games to go thanks to the two tough losses against rivals. That’s not going to please a lot of recipients regardless of the pricing and that’s also quite also a gamble — picking a big weekend with two games against local rivals to send out renewals. Based on the reactions around twitter and always-on-top-of-everything forum IslanderMania, season subscribers are not pleased.
To the team’s credit, they’re not doing this and offering nothing in return. John Tavares, the unbelievably marketable player that he is, will personally sign a jersey for you and shake your hand if you pay by April 16th, right along with your taxes. For those not willing to pay up quite so quickly, you can choose an installment plan and still get a signed jersey from any player you choose. But it’s quite clear from the estimates that I’ve been told, fans will still be paying for those jerseys.
“My family has had [tickets] for almost 20 years,” one with seats in the 200s told me. “Sadly this is probably the last straw.” That person saw an increase of $420 for the pair of seats they have, pushing the total bill to over $8,000. Another season ticket holder told me they were handed a $5 price increase for each of two seats in the lower bowl, also totaling a $420 increase. Another subscriber on the red line in the upper bowl saw a smaller increase of $2 per game, totaling $168 for two seats. There are others with mostly similar figures and while I’ve only taken a small sample, I have yet to run into someone who has not had any sort of an increase.
The jerseys are a nice item, for sure. But they don’t do a lot to offset the biggest problems, in consumers’ wallets and on the Coliseum ice. The team is on pace for 78 points this year, which would only be five better than last year’s final total. After some wins and exciting games at the Coliseum in the second half of last season, more fans bought in this season. Now we’re seeing the effects of the uptick in demand with an uptick in price but the problem is that the on-ice product is roughly the same. Fans are frustrated and it certainly looks like some will not be willing to pay the extra ante.