Predators introducing stricter measures to limit ticket purchases by opposing fans
NASHVILLE -- The Music City has always been known as one of the greatest tourist destinations in the south. Accommodating, hospitable, and cheaper than other surrounding locations, Nashville continues to lure many in with its irresistible southern charm and neon decor.
It's no secret either that hockey fans of opposing teams plan their vacations around seeing their team faceoff against the Nashville Predators. Whether it's a weekend getaway or a booster club excursion into enemy territory, it is one away game that plenty of fans circle on their calendar once the schedule is released.
That's why it could come as a shock that purchasing tickets to games against the Predators could be a tad difficult starting next season.
This isn't the first time that Nashville experienced an uproar over an adjustment to their ticket policies. In fact, you almost might say the first change could have been a pilot program leading to the new alterations the Predators will soon make.
"Two years ago we launched the 'Grow the Gold' campaign," said Predators COO Sean Henry. "Some people called it 'Keep the Red Out'. When it happened, when we started having capacity crowds, we wanted every game to be our home game. It's that simple.
When we launched it originally, if you were going to buy a Blackhawk game, you had to buy two other games as well. You could have used the game or donated it to charity. We got beat up and down in Chicago [for the change], but it was for us. Our whole statement was that we're building this for our fans, no one else's fans."
While the change may have upset fans in Chicago, it didn't faze them from buying up tickets and traveling in droves to see their Blackhawks against the Predators in Nashville.
After missing the playoffs in the previous two seasons, the "Grow the Gold" campaign hasn't seen the positive traction that management was hoping to get for rivalry games against some of Nashville's in-division rivals.
"When you talk to our fans now, who's the best home hockey team in hockey? We are," said Henry. "Two home losses, one of those losses was to Chicago [on Dec. 6th]. Was that a home game? No. I don't know if there were 6,000 Chicago fans here or 9,000, it doesn't matter. We lost our home crowd edge.
It wasn't fun for anybody. You have season ticket holders saying, 'what are you going to do?' The fact is we have a lot of season ticket holders that are saying, 'I don't know if I want to come to that game'. You should want that game, it's a division rival. We're in a pennant race, if you will, against [Chicago] and St. Louis."
Before the 2014-15 season began, the Predators already began implementing different tactics in their approach to limiting other fan bases from flooding into Bridgestone Arena. Games were sold to season ticket holders and offered to the local market with a general public sale being the last and final option.
Yet, even with the new influx of changes, it didn't seem to affect the final outcome.
"For the St. Louis game a few weeks ago, we cut off all sales in St. Louis two weeks before the game," said Henry. "We said, 'we can't have this anymore, we just can't.' If that means we have a game that doesn't sell out, we'd rather have that then have a game where we lose the edge.
So we're putting some pretty strong steps in for what we want to do for our fans. It won't be received well nationally, I assume, but again what are we doing? We're building this for our fans."
Including all the previous changes that Nashville used to maintain home ice advantage, the Predators will also be introducing heavily restrictive measures that will seemingly prevent fans from opposing teams in certain games from either buying tickets directly from the team or even buying tickets on the secondary market.
Excessive as that sounds, what's being presented isn't new in the world of ticket sales. In fact, two concerts in Nashville's recent history have performed some of the same tactics.
In October, the Foo Fighters blocked all ticket sales in the secondary market, forcing patrons to either use or lose their tickets by having to present photo identification and the purchasing credit card at the door. Country artist Eric Church is utilizing the same methods for his concert Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena.
"There might be as many as four, five or six games that we restrict people's ability to re-sell the ticket," said Henry. "Just like you do on the Eric Church concert on Saturday night. You bought 3,000 tickets, floor seats prime. Scalper tickets that buy them all up, get them out of the hands of real fans, then re-sell them at astronomical prices.
We don't want that. We don't want our fans that want to sit in the best seats to have to pay two or three times the ticket value for that very one night. So we're going to restrict it, just like a concert ticket, or block the ability to sell it and if a season ticket holder can't come to a game or wants to re-sell their ticket, we'll buy that ticket back from them. We'll offer to buy it back at 10 percent higher than what they paid us for it and that'll guarantee we won't re-sell it to someone out of the market."
There's room for error, though. When steps are taken to start blocking purchases, and even buying tickets back, there's the possibility of preventing a sold out building. That's something the Predators have already thought of.
Having measures in place and ready to go when they activate their newest plan, Nashville will guarantee they'll play those select games with as many fans in seats as possible.
"If we get stuck with that ticket and we can't sell it, it'll go to our 'Give and Go' program, our foundation, kids that can't come to games, and military members," said Henry. "I think by doing this we're going to maintain our home ice advantage on every game."
Ultimately, Nashville is trying to cater to their fan base and their market. It's understandable and they're not the only team in the league that's pulled their focus to themselves and their own.
While the backlash will come, it will be hard to argue against any of the adjustments for the Predators.
"When we launched to 'Grow the Gold' two years ago I said to everyone it's our job to build the team that makes our fans not want to sell tickets. We're in that right now," said Henry. "It's also a statement for the fans that are upset about it. We want to just take that out of the equation. It's pretty drastic, but at the same time other teams are already doing it. When we sell out every game, no one's going to say it's not fair.
We're building this for our city. The stronger our market is and the stronger our fan base is, the stronger the team is. We are the best team in the league at home. Period. To give away one of those games like we did, we need to change that.