When I was going to sit down and write a post today, I was intending to write about this past week – last Monday’s trade deadline drama, the bruised and battered state of the team and how they have yet again found ways to pick up points even when not at their best.
That is, until playoff and 2012-13 season invoices were made available to subscribers today. If you haven’t gotten yours, or haven’t seen it yet, be prepared for sticker shock that is hitting sections of the Garden.
Since it’s first up on the horizon, let’s tackle playoff tickets. It’s normal for playoff ticket prices to be more than regular season prices, but when the full complement of 16 potential playoff games costs close to and in some cases surpasses the full cost of an 81-game season (one of my Twitter followers mentioned to me his playoff package for his seat in the 400s is over $700 more than his full season cost) it’s problematic. Last year, in section 327, tickets in the 6th row for round 1 ran $95 a ticket per game. This year in a comparable section they’ll set you back $102 on a seat that costs $59 to a subscriber during the regular season. (Online billing does not break it down per round up front, but to give you an idea how the prices can increase per round, last year’s tickets if the Rangers made it all the way to the finals were $220 a seat.) [Correction - online billing does in fact break it down by round. Those finals seats that cost $220 last year are $230 a seat this year.]
If you’re not a subscriber and want to go to a game next season, be prepared to pay up too. According to the pricing chart available to view on the Rangers site that shows the variation in prices from full season to buying individually on Ticketmaster, the cheapest seat in the house will be $40 a game if you walk up to the Garden box office (the same ticket costs $52 if you purchase it online). With phase 2 of the Madison Square Garden renovations continuing this summer, sections will also be renumbered. As you can see on the seating chart for next season, gone will be the 300s and most of the 400s, replaced by sections numbered as the 200s. Also in sections there is wide variation in pricing. The current 300s in the east and west ends of the Garden were renovated for this year. Tickets that are now $59 per game for a full season subscriber in the current section 320 regardless of whether or not you sit in row A or F will now be tiered pricing. Take the new section 219, which is in approximately the same place. Want to sit in row 4? That’s $73 a seat for the full season. Tack on another $6 if you prefer the second row. Want the first row? Dig a little deeper as those will cost $125. The lone consolation, if there is one for season subscribers, is that there are no preseason games to pay for because of the ongoing renovations. That’s a plus, because if history is any indication, those tickets would cost the same as regular season games.
The sad thing is, I wrote about this subject around this time last year too when 2011-12 prices were rolled out. That hypothetical family of four may find it a little more difficult to afford to get in the door next year, never mind be able to pay for some of the new food concessions that have been introduced this season. The Rangers and the NHL may lose a few more from the next generation of fans as the average person continues to get priced out.
Of course the simple thing is for someone to say “well, no one is forcing someone to renew or buy any tickets for that matter.” That’s true and a perfectly valid argument. I had another Twitter follower tell me that after 10 years, he’s out. It’s unfortunate that someone who’s been in for that long, and lord knows saw some God-awful hockey before this turnaround, is at a point where he can’t enjoy the team in the same way now that it’s good. For every current holder who is giving up their seats simply because they’re disgusted with the increases or simply can’t afford it, there’s someone right behind him or her who will be willing and able to pay the price and scoop them up. One can also argue that this is America, it’s a capitalist system, teams can charge whatever the market will bear. That’s true, and it’s certainly what’s going on here, but along with that a little more of what’s always made the Garden a great place to take in a hockey game goes away. You can renovate the building all you want, but when those who care and put their heart and soul into it for 41+ games get priced out and dwindle, what do you really have left? The insistence on “Cost Certainty” that wound up costing us a season and was supposed to help control ticket prices has, seven seasons removed, been certainly costly here in New York.
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About the Author: Likes: Hockey, the New York Rangers, King Henrik, singing the Rangers goal song, "The Save", the sound skates make against ice, heckling Marty Brodeur. Dislikes: 3-point games, front-office mismanagement, Denis Potvin, overpriced arena beer. Interested? Follow me on Twitter: @CC_927