We all knew that changes would be coming under the new ownership and the guidance of his hockey henchmen. It started last off season with an increase in the amount of money spent on payroll. This upcoming season, fans of the Buffalo Sabres will be helping return some of the money coughed up by the team to sign free agents Christian Erhoff, Robyn Regehr, and Ville Leino – at least the season ticket holders will.
At the end of the year, 15,100 of the seats at First Niagara Center were claimed by season ticket holders, and that number will increase as more members of hte Blue and Gold club will be allowed to buy season tickets; they will do so at a higher rate. The team announced today that season tickets will go up anywhere from $2-$8 dollars, depending on where you sit.
This increase will bring the average ticket price at First Niagara Center to about $53 dollars, still well below the league average of $75. For the Blue and Gold faithful however, many may feel that it is a slap in the face to fans who have remained true despite the lack of changes and another season without the playoffs being part of the package deal.
The organization is always in a position where they sell the most number of season tickets when compared against other teams in the league, despite being near the lower end of the price scale, but fan unrest due to unchanging ways within management could help fuel an exit for some season ticket holders. I don’t think the organization will feel the effect at the box office however, given the depth of the Blue and Gold club waiting list for season tickets.
For many fans, the sting of not making the playoffs this year was high, with the standards being raised before the first puck was even dropped this season. This might attribute some loss on the season ticket front, but again, with the depth of the waiting list, the Sabres should continue to sell out the arena; unless the playoff drought reaches another level. If the organization is going to continue to spend money to bring in free agents like some of the bigger markets, I think we will see a trend of rising prices at the box office until the tickets are aligned more with that of teams with higher payrolls. I don’t necessarily see a problem with it as long as the organization doesn’t’ price the team out of Buffalo, or turn First Niagara Center into a corporate meeting place similar to Air Canada Centre, where the ture faithful have to run to foreign ground to see their beloved team play.
Another change fans will have to deal with is the smoking ban in effect on First Niagara Center property. No longer will fans be allowed to smoke on the facility grounds before, during, or after the game. This includes the smoking reentry gate near the Buffalo Sabres store during intermissions.
As a reformed smoker – I can’t see how many people still flock in blizzard like temperatures in upstate New York to get a quick fix of nicotine while they are being entertained. With a great number of fans requesting the arena go completely smoke free, First Niagara Center is doing nothing more here than appeal to the growing number of people who would rather not be around smokers.