Yesterday, the Ottawa Senators officially marked the start of their season ticket holder (STH) renewal campaign for the 2019-20 season. Straight in the title they claim that it's the "most comprehensive Fan Reward Program in the NHL". As Graeme Nichols brought up, how is that even measurable?
How do you measure this accurately against what other teams are doing? https://t.co/4eRdX1uTMY— Graeme Nichols (@6thSens) March 7, 2019
I will plug my own blog post from 2014 in which I made a rudimentary attempt at ranking all the NHL teams' STH benefits. I had the Sens ranked 19th, so I have my doubts at their current claim. As a current STH, I don't think they've done enough to vault all the way to number one. Now, I'm not going to put the effort into comparing their new The Seventh offering against the rest of the NHL. What I can do is compare it year to year from this current 2018-19 season to what they plan on offering in the 2019-20 season.
I've currently got two full season pairs of tickets in 327E and 319A, so my perspective will be from that of a 300 level full STH. I'm going to break the comparison down into three subsections, ticket costs, base perks, and VIP perks.
Because of dynamic pricing, it's difficult to figure out what the actual discount a STH gets off gate, but I'd probably guess it's around 30% or so for a full STH. For my 319A pair I have receipts starting from the 2015-16 season. I did have different seat locations in the earlier years, but the pricing would have been the same.
2016-17: $4686.00 ($156 increase)
2017-18: $4844.00 ($158 increase)
2018-19: $5106.64 ($262 increase) *
2019-20: $4943.84 ($163 decrease)
* Sens began charging extra for 300 End Rail
So as you can see, the Sens did decrease the price of a full season ticket package for the 300 End Rail by ~3% heading into 2019-20. However, it's still above the price from 2017-18. My 327E pair also saw a decrease of ~5.5%.
Of course, the assumption would be that the Sens would have lowered the price across the board for STHs. That would be wrong. Andrea has four full season tickets in the 100s and noted that her ticket cost actually went up! Turns out that "the club has either frozen or dropped the price of 86 per cent of the seats."
That is incredible after the season we are currently going through on the ice. Even worse, when you consider 100 level STHs have probably gotten the short end of the stick this season in terms of STH discounts. Due to slow sales this season, at numerous points during the year they have been offering STHs an 50% off additional tickets, valid for anywhere in the arena. Meaning these seats can be purchased at well below the STH price, especially in the 100 level.
A 100 level STH would have probably been better off this season buying the cheapest package available, selling those off and then purchasing 100 level tickets with the 50% off discount. Or even better yet, just befriend an existing STH to take advantage of their discounts. The 50% discounts appeared to be a short term fix, with long term implications. It devalued the cost of tickets, including the lowering of prices on the secondary market. Even if you didn't have a STH connection, the team has offered various promotions to the public that are below STH costs such as the ones below.
As one current STH told me "The Sens don't help their case when they offer promotions (such as the 6 or 8 game pass that just came out) that completely devalues my purchase." Why bother being a STH when you can get tickets cheaper elsewhere? Where is the value? It's very likely the team will struggle the next couple of seasons, thus keeping demand low for tickets. Will this in turn cause these types of promotions to pop up again? Another STH mentioned to me that "the statement that guarantees us the lowest prices is gone for the marketing material."
Another problem is getting your money back on the secondary market is tough. The easiest and most convenient way to sell your tickets as a STH is through Ticketmaster resale (TicketExchange) as it's linked directly to your STH account, meaning very little effort on your part. As a STH told me "they have capped the minimum ticket sale price for each ticket on TicketExchange which further reduces my liquidity and even the opportunity to get some cash out of the tickets I can't use. To use an economists term, I can't leave my tickets to the market equilibrium."
@spalisek, a current STH mentioned what the Sens should have done is offer a price freeze for the rebuild. Why not offer STHs an opportunity to lock in at a set price for the next couple seasons. Commit to the rebuild and have the advantage of cheaper seats when the rebuild starts to pay dividends. So even though the majority of STHs have gotten a minor decrease in price on their tickets, the fact that tickets aren't likely going to be in high demand in the near future means there's little value from a ticket price perspective as a STH. Odds are in 2019-20, if one took their time browsing the secondary market and the various promotions the Sens are sure to offer, one could attend every home game at a cheaper price than what they would pay as a full STH.
As an aside, it looks like the Sens have decided to exclude tax from the listed prices for season tickets, whereas in the past they've always been tax in.
Below (courtesy of @spalisek) are the 2019-20 ticket prices.
You have to multiply the values by 1.13 to get the price you'd actually pay, e.g. 300 End Rail = 2187.54 * 1.13 * 2 = 4943.84 as you can see in my invoice
Compared to 2018-19 season ticket prices:
No need to apply taxes for these prices, e.g. 300 End Row A = 2554 * 2 = 5108 as you can see in my invoice
Being a STH offers numerous base perks. The Seventh did have some confusion for those who aren't STHs as I saw a lot of people think some of these perks were brand new, especially with the way the media is putting it out there. To start, I'll list the perks that have carried over from this current season into The Seventh program:
- Savings on regular season and playoff tickets: As mentioned in the previous section STHs do get savings on gate prices, but the major perk is the heavy discount on playoff tickets. Unfortunately, that perk will not matter at all in 2019-20.
- Savings on public parking price: The Sens reduced the cost in GA parking lots from $20 to $12 this 2018-19 season, rendering the savings on this perk less than before. For full season ticket holders, after five years you get free GA parking. For half season ticket holders, after ten years you get free GA parking. Now this might have changed as the new Seventh site has this graphic, but for now I'll assume it's the same policy.
- 20% discount at The Sens Store: Can't be applied to already discounted items or game worn merchandise
- Sens Bucks credit: Can get up to $250 a seat depending on how much you paid for your seat. If you pay for your tickets in full, you'll get 2% of that value back in Sens Bucks. Sens Bucks can be used for pretty much anything, at the Sens store, for tickets, or concessions. It's actually a pretty good perk in that it's essentially cash back, so it can be your new jersey or used to pay for your beers for a couple games. This is probably one of the underrated perks in that they may have taken away some physical merchandise giveaways from past seasons, but this gives you the option to purchase your own choice of merchandise if you wanted.
- Priority access to Canadian Tire Centre events: For full and half Season Seat Members in the 100 and 200 level only. Essentially presale access before any newsletter presale codes.
- Exclusive Season Seat Member events: Every season the team advertises these exclusive STH events. These are actually the reason I became a STH in the first place, to have the opportunity to meet the players. Now the problem with this perk is that it's very vague and there's no promises made on the number of events that will happen.
For example this season there's only been three events that I can remember. 1) Development camp during the offseason. STHs got a meet and greet with the prospects and priority seating for the scrimmage. 2) Ticket pick up at Saunders Farm during the preseason which included a free dinner. All the players that weren't playing in the Hockeyville game were in attendance to meet STHs. That included the likes of Tkachuk, Stone, and Anderson. This was actually one of the better events that the team has organized imo. 3) Holiday skate at the CTC. The opportunity to skate at the CTC for an hour, and then meet Santa for the kids and free hot chocolate and Timbits. In the past the Sens used to actually have players available for meet and greets at this event.
There used to be bigger and more STH events in past years, including meet and greets during the season. The question is whether this perk will improve for the 2019-20 season. It's tough to judge this perk until the season rolls around and STHs see what comes up, but it's definitely trended downwards since I first became a STH in 2010-11. Talking with STHs, many complain about these non-existent exclusive events they're expecting during the season.
- Pre-order access to Stanley Cup Playoff tickets: N/A, won't matter for 2019-20
- Priority seat relocation access: The Sens hold a pick a seat event where all seats that weren't renewed are opened up for current STHs to relocated too. This event is usually done in person so you can sit in the seats and actually see the views. For the 2018-19 season they did it online which I don't think was that well received as it appears they're going back to an in person event for 2019-20 where there's likely going to be a larger selection available.
- Ticket Trade and Ticket Transfer: Gives STHs the ability to exchange tickets to games with the same price level classification. Full STHs get unlimited trades, while half STHs get a limited amount. All STHs get unlimited ticket transfers to easily transfer tickets to others.
- Dedicated Membership Account Manager: Every STH is assigned an account manager to contact for any questions or concerns.
- Fan Fest tickets: Free tickets to the September Fan Fest event.
- 10% referral credit: If you refer a new STH to your account manager, you'll get 10% of their first year's cost in Sens Bucks to your account.
- Daily draws for a month for STHs who commit to renewing: Note that the draws done for the 2018-19 seasons weren't daily, they were done weekly and bi-weekly, but they chose multiple winners. For 2019-20 they'll have 32 daily winners. I barely consider this a perk, because the odds of one winning among thousand of STHs is minuscule.
- 20% discount at concessions: 20% off all concessions minus alcohol. This is actually a pretty good perk as it makes food a more reasonable price when attending games. For the 2018-19 season, they did add STH combo discounts, but it was mainly for the generic food like popcorn/pizza/hot dogs and most of the combos forced you to buy a pop. Now the assumption is this 20% is valid at all concessions in the building, not just the generic Aramark locations.
- Sens Skills tickets (300 level): A nice throw in, but each Sens Skill ticket is only worth around $15, not a game changer.
- Open practice: Sounds like this will just be like the open practices that are available to the public periodically throughout the season, but exclusive for STHs. This was previously a VIP perk option.
- The Seventh: Season Seat Members Club pin: A pin that is apparently made up of game worn material.
- The Seventh: Season Seat Members Club gear: Now this is up in the air. The photo they include is a tee shirt, so is that what every STH is getting, or are the higher spenders getting better gear like a hoodie? Will the gear include the Sens logo anywhere? Guess this is a perk we'll find out more about as we get closer to next season, but I think it's pretty cool to give STHs merch that identifies them as such. It's a build up on the Fan For Life patches they gave STHs who opted into automatic renewal (with a limited time period to make changes every year).
- Fans for Life receive bonus tickets: As mentioned, a Fan For Life are STHs who opted into automatic renewal. They will receive bonus tickets. I included this in new for The Seventh, but the past couple years the team has given STHs bonus ticket pairs to various games once or twice throughout the season, allowing them to select seats anywhere in the building, so I could have probably included this in existing perks, but those bonus tickets were never actually announced as a benefit in advance.
So for this 2018-19 season, the Sens had a VIP perks program. You were given a certain amount of VIP perks based on if you were a Fan For Life, your tenure, and your cost. The point total is shown below.
So for example, I was given 2250 points, 500 for being a Fan For Life, 250 for 5-14 years of tenure, and another 1500 for the investment. Now the Sens did change the VIP program for 2018-19. In previous seasons, STHs were allowed to carry over their VIP points for one season, allowing them to combine two years' worth to get a larger perk. The problem was that the team had a limited amount of many of the perks available, and all the good ones were almost immediately taken when the selection window opened. Their solution, cancel the ability to carry over points and raise the cost of some perks so they didn't run out as quickly.
These were the perks available:
- Get your Sens Merchandise signed by a Player: Give us an Official Sens Merchandise item and we'll have it signed by a player. Player to be determined by the Ottawa Senators - 2500 points
- Lexus Lounge at Ice Level Club Experience: Receive VIP access for you and a guest in the exclusive lounge in section 101 for a pre-game buffet dinner, intermission desserts, and post-game all-access interview with a Sens players - 2500 points
- Sens Alumni Night in Senators Party Suite: You and a guest can enjoy the game in the Senators Party Suite with special Sens Alumni guests. (Incl. dinner and drink ticket per guest) - 2500 points
- Dinner in Alumni Lounge: You and a guest will enjoy a pre-game buffet meal in one of our best, and newly renovated restaurants! Tickets are not included - 2000 points
- TSN Lounge Experience: Watch the game from the new TSN Studio located at section 113. You and a guest will have reserved seating inside the studio, offering you a great view of the ice. (inc. tickets) - 2000 points
- Casa Bacardi Experience: You and a guest will have the opportunity to watch the game and relax in the Casa Bacardi lounge. Sit at the reserved high top bar rail and watch the game live from section 109. (incl. tickets) - 2000 points
- Behind the Bench: Get up close to the coaches and players with 2 seats within rows of the Sens bench (Incl. tickets and parking pass) - 2000 points
- Bell All-Access Post-Game Player Interview: Receive exclusive access to the Canadian Club Bell All-Access post-game player interview hosted by Gord Wilson following a home game in the 2018-19 season - 1500 points
- Eye in the sky: You and your guest watch a Senators game from the Brian Smith Press Box at Canadian Tire Centre. (Incl. tickets) - 1500 points
- Sin-bin warmup: You and your guest watch the Senators' warm-up from the penalty box - 1500 points
- Ride the Zamboni: One child aged 7 to 12 rides the Zamboni after the Senators' pre-game warm-up - 1500 points
- Bonus tickets to a Senators home game (100 level): Receive one 100L ticket. List of Oct/Nov games and seat location to be provided in August 2018 - 750 points
- Post-Game Photo on Ice:Capture the moment with your guest(s) on centre-ice after the game - 1000 points
- Free Parking Pass: Receive a free parking voucher for your choice of game in the 2018-19 hockey season - 500 points
- High-Five Hallway Experience: One child, aged 6 to 14, will give high-fives to the Senators players as they take to the ice for the pre-game warm-up - 500 points
- Watch a Sens Practice at Canadian Tire Centre: You and a guest will watch the Sens practice at Canadian Tire Centre - 500 points
- Bonus tickets to a Senators home game (300 level): Receive one 300L ticket - 375 points
- 2018 Sens Skills (100 Level): Enjoy a fun-filled event that features the Sens competing against each other in six skills event. Receive one 100L ticket - 375 points
- Donate your VIP points: Give back to the community and donate your VIP points to the Senators Foundation. These points will allow local children to experience a variety of our VIP benefits. You may donate in increments of 250 points - 250 points
- Extra Fan Fest Ticket: Receive an extra ticket to 2018 Fan Fest - 250 points
- 2018 Sens Skills (300 Level): Enjoy a fun-filled event that features the Sens competing against each other in six skills event. Receive one 300L ticket - 300 points
- Game-used Stick: Enter the draw to win an Ottawa Senators game used stick - 100 points
- Signed Senators Jersey: Enter the draw to win a signed Ottawa Senators jersey - 100 points
- The Ferguslea Sens Soirée: Enter the draw to win 2 tickets to the biggest event in Ottawa, the Ferguslea Sens Soirée - 100 points
MVP: $13500 - $49999
Hall of Fame: $50000+
Now with my two pairs of full season tickets, I'm in the All Star category.
One thing I'd like to note which I found interesting is if the cut off for All Star is indeed over $5000, then the lowering of my 319A pair could actually be seen as a bad thing. If I only had the 319A pair, in 2018-19 it would have cost me $5106.64 which for this new perk system is in the All Star range, but with the reduction for 2019-20 it only costs me $4943.84 which would land me in the Top Line range. I need my second pair in 327E pair to push me into the All Star range.
Knowing I'm in the All Star range, the perks for me are actually increased from the 2018-19 season. Instead of getting a pair of tickets behind the bench, I could now get a pair of Club Bell seats (or just stick with the same behind the bench seats) as well as a pair of tickets in the Molson Canadian Fan Deck. Of course this is all subject to availability. Who knows how easy it will be to secure the perks you want. One STH I've talked to who is also in the All Star range would only considering renewing if he could be guaranteed he could get the Club Bell experience. He's still waiting to hear back from his ticket rep.
Now while for me this new perk system appears to be better, it's not the case for everyone. Jeff, another current STH fired an email off to Aimee Deziel, the CMO of the Ottawa Senators. Below is a small snippet taken from it.
So I have been waiting anxiously to hear about my perks, as a valued member of the "seventh". I should have known better when I think about the broken promises from the marketing team the last couple of years (17 bobbleheads were not issued as promised for the 25th anniversary, non existent STH exclusive events).
In previous years, I would have received a renewal package either digitally or via the mail. This year: Crickets. No phone call. No email from the club. I could not find any of the pertinent information on the senators portal. Nothing, nada. I reached out on Twitter, got the answers there, and was absolutely shocked to find I was deemed "PRO", the lowest rung on the ladder.
Everything I heard this morning, & everything I read pointed to the club not taking the fans for granted. The club was claiming to be listening to the fans & would be actively changing, as actions spoke louder than words.
The club’s actions truly felt like a slap in the face.
Based on what I can see, my tenure as a 6 year full season ticket holder means nothing because I don’t spend enough. I understand you need to reward the higher $ accounts over me. Fair enough.
But am I equal in the club’s eyes to a first time season ticket holder that signs up today at the same price point? That’s how it feels. Tenure used to matter. Why does it not matter now? If I didn’t know better, the club doesn’t want me to renew.
Just as an FYI re:bobbleheads, Cyril Leeder had promoted a 25 bobblehead series giveaway to coincide with the Sens 25th anniversary (link to the press release which is now dead https://www.nhl.com/senators/news/news-release-ottawa-senators-25th-anniversary-season-to-feature-25-piece-bobblehead-series/c-890859). 8 were released during the 2016-17 season, with the promise that 17 more would be released in the 2017-18 season. Leeder was fired before the 2017-18 season began and with Tom Anselmi taking over, the 25th anniversary bobblehead program was terminated, with no press release or notification to fans. They just silently killed it hoping nobody would notice.
Back to business. Jeff brings up a good point in that for a team claiming to value their STHs, it is odd that tenure no longer has any impact on one's perks. Of course that's the assumption, maybe it does, but from all the STHs I've talked to it doesn't appear to be the case. Many have reached out to their account managers for clarification, but haven't heard anything back yet. I will update this section if anything changes when new information comes to light.
Overall, my impression is that for those who spend a larger amount, they will be getting more valuable perks under this new system. That is, assuming one can actually select the perks they want and that there isn't a very limited amount available as has been the case in the past. However, on the flip side, those with smaller and more affordable seats are probably seeing their perks deteriorate, especially for those with tenure who a couple years ago could use VIP points and carry them over a year to select a better perk. The Seventh seems like a further step backwards for them in terms of additional VIP perks.
So is The Seventh truly the "most comprehensive Fan Reward program in the NHL"? As Daniel Alfredsson would say, "probably not". Is it an improvement on the 2018-19 season ticket benefits? For the majority of STHs it probably is. Is it an improvement on the season ticket benefits from the seasons prior to 2018-19? Well that's up for debate. There's still a lot of question marks for The Seventh program, and many may not be answered until the 2019-20 actually begins.
Given the state of the on ice product, I don't know if The Seventh will be enough to convince many STHs to renew. If the on ice product wasn't in such a bad state and there was actual trust in ownership, I feel like STHs would be completely fine, if not happy about The Seventh. At the end of the day, the majority of people become STHs to see the Sens win and compete for the Stanley Cup. Few have faith that will happen under current ownership. A minor improvement to STH benefits from year to year isn't going to cut it. Would a major improvement to STH benefits have been enough? I don't know the answer to that. All I know is that for many STHs, the trust between them and ownership is currently shattered, and The Seventh isn't going to mend that, no matter how the press releases and media interviews tell them "We appreciate you, we need you, we value you,’ and we’ve created a program that is based entirely on the feedback to us, we’re living our values" and that they're being rewarded "for the commitment and unbroken loyalty they've shown us, especially this season."
I've been asked what I plan to do with my season seats. I will definitely be renewing my 327E tickets, as I do want to continue being a STH and having the opportunity to attend the meet and greet events. I also want to have my STH tenure continue (especially for the free parking), and not lose my seat locations as Row E is the lowest row for that price range. The 327E seats are pretty affordable as well, and I'm sure I could come close to break even if I decided to sell on the secondary market, no matter how badly the 2019-20 season goes.
My 319A seats are still up in the air. It took me years of waiting before I was finally able to secure full season seats in the 300s Row A on the visitor side. The thought of having to release those pain me. On the flip side, I expect many are in the same boat as me, and I do expect a good number of them to release their tickets, so theoretically there is a chance I could secure 300 Row A seats on the visitor side when the team is good again. I will note that this 2018-19 season I've noticed there is a much larger availability of tickets in the 300 Row As in terms of tickets available from Ticketmaster. That indicates a large number of STHs cancelled even prior to this current season. From the perks perspective, I've always wanted to try Club Bell, and renewing these seats would give me that opportunity. However, from the cost perspective, I know for these seats I have my doubts I could even come close to break even on the secondary market if the 2019-20 season goes as I expect it to. And I won't lie, when a season goes badly, especially under current ownership, I'm more inclined to sell my tickets to free up some disposable income for other activities. This decision will be something I'm going to ponder over the next week or two.
I'm of the opinion I don't want to reward Eugene Melnyk for what he's done to the Ottawa Senators by renewing. However, my own selfishness of not wanting to lose my seat locations for when the team eventually becomes a contender does take priority over not handing Melnyk my money. In a perfect world I could not renew and just have my seats returned to me when we get new ownership.
I feel bad for many of the great staff in the organization that have to take the brunt of criticism from the fans, especially those in the ticketing department. It can't be a fun time for them. I also feel for the players who are all fully aware of the situation. It can't be fun playing in front of a diminishing crowd as the season goes by. I know there are STHs that can put Melnyk aside and are renewing to support the players and I have absolutely nothing against that. There's no proper way of being a fan. But I will say, I am taking pleasure in seeing the number of STHs on social media who say they will not be renewing. There is no clearer message that a fan base is fed up with ownership than that.