The San Diego Gulls released new pricing contracts for season ticket members Friday that are in the short term, not consumer friendly. For those looking at signing into the long term, the increase is perhapsjustifiable; but the team appears to be relying heavily on the notion that “our market is the best” as the sole means of justification and wants to force season buyers into locking in for three years.
For those favoring a short term “one-year” contract, some pricing levels leaped by 56% (from $30 per game to $47 a game). This is not a consumer-friendly move that makes any logistical sense, but the team knows this: they want you to be guaranteed for the next three seasons. They have zero intention on actually getting people to buy into these one year prices. The lone means of avoiding these prices is to lock in on a long term “three-year contract” which still means an increase for all fans. For some fans this increase comes with “new sections” unjustly being labeled as “limited edition,” causing a 27% increase in pricing (Ex: $22 to $28 per game, thus costing an additional $204 per seat per season. While this might not sound all that bad, you have to think of family clients or others who have 4+ seats; the money adds up. On a separate yet relatable note, the schedule could also expand to a league wide accepted 72 games (36 at home) as soon as the 2020-2021 with a ¾ vote from all AHL teams per AHL President Dave Andrews All Star address last week. While this would mean more hockey it could create a little more cost that planned for season ticket holders. While this is the first price increase heading into our 5th season, fans have to wonder why the option for a more reasonable short-term plan are not available. One also has to wonder why the Gulls ticket prices are the most expensive in CA and the league, yet our “STH benefits” (that no doubt some fans will brush off and say “who cares, be happy there is hockey here”) come short of that of other teams.
Other CA AHL markets (all of which play in nicer arenas) have lower prices as exemplified below. All teams including SD offer some form of ticket exchange/ticket banking program for “never wasting tickets” and around 10% off at their respective “team/arena store.”
Stockton: Pricing differences up to $40 per game compared to Gulls STH equivalent. Limited edition “Heat365” STH jersey and hat plus two other gifts TBD. Two free bonus tickets for opening night, skate with the team event, on ice photo, also includes free preseason ticket(s). Discounted parking passes available (speaking from experience there is plenty of free parking around the arena on game days).
Bakersfield: Pricing differences up to $32 per game compared to Gulls STH equivalent among various undisclosed STH benefits (seemingly scarves this past season). Select season ticket holders get free parking where single game parkers face a bizarre $6 charge.
San Jose: Pricing differences up to $28 per game compared to Gulls STH equivalent, parking included to all ticket holders who sign up by 2/9. Fan with team “gala” included in ticket package, among other undisclosed benefits.
Ontario: Pricing differences up to $26.75 per game compared to Gulls STH equivalent, pricing includes the 2020 All Star game which they will host. Early entry into arena through an actual VIP entrance. Also consistently host preseason game at home (Gulls have only done so once). Parking is included to ALL season ticket members, single game buyers only face $10 in parking fees.
The “our market is the best” claim can surely check out having most recently coming off of a season in which the team lead the league in attendance, but fans have no doubt noticed a reasonable decline in actual attendance this season, especially prior to the Gulls’ winning/point streak. Prior to this weekend’s games, the Gulls maintained the lead league in attendance with 8,730 fans and this weekend’s contests no doubt will increase that figure (though Saturday could have had a bigger draw had it not been pouring). Questions linger in this fans mind: why don’t we sell out more games in a county of 3+ million people? Will raising prices create a negative impact on the attendance figures? In actuality, the single game prices that have already gone up have certainly played a role in lowering the “bystander effect” at home games, regardless of announced figures. Economically, the Gulls are probably situating to show growth again and while this may be a sign of success, it will be short term as returning fans are less and less likely to attend games with a diminishing utility for a sport many newcomers still are yet to understand.
Outside of relying on “the best market” strategy, it is unknown as to what additional enticement could be added to the plan(s) in terms of “season ticket holder gifts,” but those who have followed along with other CA AHL markets have expressed discontent due to the fallacy in the Gulls marketing ploy: “if we are the best market, we ought to be treated as such.” In terms of thinking along the lines of “the Ducks don’t budget that way;” look no further than our former ECHL affiliate in Utah who, under the Ducks, treated their clientele like royalty.
In short, we do have a phenomenal market, but it hasn’t been effectively tapped into yet. Raising STH prices (and inevitably single game prices) will only continue to decrease actual attendance figures at Pechanga Arena, especially with a plethora of substitutes being introduced or revitalized from the Sockers with their acquisition of Landon Donovan, the Seals of the NLL, and now the Strike Force of the IFL.
Current Gulls season ticket holders floating to decide on the three year contract have until April 10thbefore their season tickets are released to the public for re-sale.