The slippery slope of $5 night

Let’s start this post with a math lesson.

5,619 x $6 = $33,714
1,656 x $17 = $28,152
$28,152/6 = 4,692

Or this one:

6,088 x $5 = $30,440
2,184 x $17 = $37,128
$37,846/5 = 7,569

The equations listed above are as follows: The top ones are from Macon’s recent $6 night, and the bottom ones are from Fayetteville’s $5 night. The top line in each is the attendance each cheap night, times the ticket price, equals the ticket money brought in. The middle line is the team’s average attendance minus cheap night, times their average regular price, and the average money brought in. The bottom line is the average money brought in at regular prices, divided by cheap ticket prices, equals the number of tickets they would need to sell each night to equal their revenue on a regular night.

So right away you can see the problem.

Yes, $5 or $6 night absolutely packs them in, basically crowds three times the size of what they would normally get in Fayetteville and Macon. And when people see that, there’s always a few fans who see just the attendance number and wonder, “Well, why don’t they do that every game?”

Well, because financially, it makes no sense. And if every game was $5 or $6, there’s no way you would pull in 5,600+ every time. What makes those nights so special is that it’s once or maybe twice a year, not every single weekend. A rare chance for folks who otherwise can’t or wouldn’t go to a game, to get out and see one. Yes, if you made tickets that cheap for every game, attendance would likely go up, but not enough and likely to the point where you would lose a TON of money unless you were guaranteed a way to get the needed numbers.

And it’s because as you can see above, you would need to almost triple attendance in Macon to get the same amount of revenue from tickets, and in Fayetteville, you would be playing at almost 90% capacity in the Crown with the tarps off to match their regular revenue.

Do you really think Fayetteville is going to get 7,500+ to EVERY game? Or that Macon is going to get almost 4,700 at every game just because the ticket are that much cheaper? What happens when it’s college football Saturday in the south and 2,500 show up? Or a storm hits and there’s 1,800 there because nobody wants to go out in that weather? You’d be screwed. Attendance would likely end up somewhere in the middle, let’s says maybe 3,500 in Fayetteville, and 3,000 in Macon. And then you’re MAYBE bringing in half of what you would versus a regular night of 1,656 or 2,184 with tickets at $17.

Now yes, in some arenas you will make up for some of that in parking, concessions, chuck a pucks, merchandise sales, and being able to charge more for ads, but not every team (like Fayetteville) charges for parking. And not every team gets a cut of concessions, and even those that do, it’s pennies on the dollar. And yes, you might sell more merchandise, but after the first month, how many fans are coming to the rink and buying a new t-shirt or jersey? Once you have a Mayhem or Marksmen shirt, chances are you’re set for that season.

So yes, you’d bring in more from those revenue streams, but not enough to make up the roughly $15,000 fewer a game you’re now bringing in because the tickets were $5 or $6. Or if a team like Fayetteville didn’t charge for parking before, you can bet your house they would start with tickets that cheap, because they have to make that money up somewhere. Or concession prices go up. Or merch prices do. Basically, your $5 ticket is going to hit your wallet hard in other places. Now imagine paying more for all that 28 times a season.

This isn’t like the NA3HL or other pay-to-play junior leagues where the players pay $10k+ a season to cover 75% of the team’s expenses and you charge $5 a ticket because it literally doesn’t matter what you charge at that point. It’s professional hockey where players, gear, buses and more all cost money that is covered by tickets and corporate sales.

Then you have the dilemma of what you do for season tickets. At $5 a game and a 28-game schedule, that’s $140, but you have to give season ticket holders a break for buying a whole season, so a season ticket becomes what, $110? That’s even fewer than $5 a game and more lost money, and honestly a bit of a slap in the face to the fans who have spent years of buying tickets at the previous prices.

Don’t get us wrong, cheap ticket night is a great thing for a couple of reasons, it brings new fans out, and hopefully for the teams means a few new season ticket holders, or fans who come back to a handful of games each year, and probably a night of huge merchandise sales. Those are all good things, and a fun way for a team to thank the community or try to get new fans in. But to think it’s a realistic way to run a business, and that’s what a minor league hockey team is, is insane.

Put it this way: If a professional team could make money and survive selling every ticket at $5 or $6, someone would be doing it. But there’s a reason nobody is, because the team would fold in less than two years.

 

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