Are the New Jersey Devils Mini-Packages for the 2009-10 Season Worth Purchasing?

The 2009-10 season is coming ever closer: training camp starts in this coming week and preseason games for the Devils begin next Wednesday at the Rock against Our Hated Rival.  For the fans who can and want to buy tickets, the important date is Wednesday, September 9 which is when individual games for the Devils will go on sale. 

Now, the Devils have kept the same box office prices for the sections as they announced back in March when they began selling season tickets.  Back in March, I wrote a detailed post showing the differences in prices from the 2008-09 season and this coming one for both the box office and season ticket prices.  For the most part, the Devils cut most ticket prices.  And the increase in those sections are no more than $10 (and the prices up there are $35 so your mileage may vary there).  The full analysis is in that post - I suggest checking that out.

Anyway, since then, the Devils have been promoting the mini-packages pretty hard online.  Well, in that the Devils currently have a splash page before the official site promoting their mini-packages.  Still, these have been available for a few weeks but now with individual games close to being on sale, this brings up a good question.   What is the advantage of each mini-package?  Would I save any money if I got one of the mini-packages instead of getting tickets from the box office?   If so, then they would be worth purchasing.  If not, then what is the point?

I took the listed prices for the 7 mini-packages available from the Devils website (there are also partial plans, I'll save that for another post) and compared the per game prices to the box office price for seats in the same section.  The results - which are admittedly mixed - and conclusions follow after the jump.

The Devils offer 7 mini-packs with various themes around them.  Here's what they are and the games offered in each package:

Devils_2009-10_minipack_games_medium

On the surface, this is a good mix in terms of package themes.  The Champions pack is for games against teams the Devils beat in the Stanley Cup Finals as well as the recent Stanley Cup Champions (who the Devils beat en route to the Cup in 1995).  Oktoberfest is all in October, Hell's Bells are all December games, and the Weekend Warrior games are all back-to-back games.  

If you focus on the dates, a majority of the plans feature games that are on Friday and the weekends.  Only the Hell's Bells and Champions packs really deviates from this, as those are mid-week games. This is a nice touch, especially for the Family 4 Pack which has only one Monday game and that's on December 28 in between Christmas and New's Year Day.  This will mean more people may be able to attend those games regardless.

One caveat here is that some overlap with some games.  Given the themes, this is to be expected in some cases.  For example, 12/5 against Detroit is covered by 4 packages as they are an Original Six team, a team the Devils beat for the Stanley Cup, the game is on a Saturday, and one of the Devils' 10 home games in December.   It's something to keep in mind when selecting a package for, especially considering how the prices break down.

Now, I got this right from the Devils' website as of today.  If there's an error, by all means, let me know - comment or e-mail, and I will change this accordingly.

9/8/2009 Update: Commenter NWKDevilsfan raises a very real point:

First time commenter here, I am also a season ticket holder. In your analysis you didn’t factor in the per-ticket “convenience/service” charges that get added to EACH ticket bought at ticketmaster. With the mini-packages you only pay a $10 handling fee for you entire order as opposed to $5-8 per ticket when buying through ticketmaster. So even if the ticket price is the same for some of the packages, avoiding these fees is a BIG savings.

This is an important aspect to keep in mind that I didn't consider. I honestly don't know what the actual fees would cost, so I just focused on the advertised prices in this comparison. Purchasing your tickets online through Ticketmaster or getting them some other way could result in paying extra fees which raise the actual price you will pay - something you can save on by getting a package deal.  For example, 4 games may run you $20-32 in fees, which can be cut to only $10 as a package.  That's a real savings of $10-22.   That said, what follows focuses only on the ticket prices themselves. Hopefully, you will still find it useful.  Caveat emptor.

Here's how the plans break down by price and with my thoughts on it. (Note: I use mini-package and mini-plan interchangeably here.)

Family_pack_medium

Now the Family 4-Pack is an excellent package if you have a family and you want to sit at one end of the rink.  Half of the 10 games offered are within the first three months of the season; but there is at least one game per month in this package.  Now, the orange section is the upper half of the lower bowl sections at each end. Having tickets there now for 2 seasons, I can personally attest that they are some great seats to watch a hockey game.   Though, economically, you not only save more by being in the upper bowl ends - but you're paying only an extra $2.25 per game over getting seats in the 200 sections on the sides of the arena.  Throw in a free hot dog and soda per game - about a $10 value if my recall correctly - and this is a solid deal for a family.  The first 50 purchasers of this package gets a zamboni ride at a Devils game; which is just icing on the cake. 

While I don't have a family of four, I'd go as far as to say this mini-package offers the best deal among the 7 offered. No other mini-package offered by the Devils offers this many games or this much in terms of individual savings per game in either section.

Bobblehead_medium

The Bobblehead mini-package is one of the two mini-packages that offer seats for the Devils red sections, the ones adjacent to the club seats in the lower bowl as well as the lower half of the lower bowl sections in either end. However, that's beside the point.  The main point is you'd save absolutely nothing on games by selecting this mini-package.  Not one dime.

The only benefits to getting this plan is that A) you get tickets to those 4 games on the plan for certain and B) you will get a bobblehead set of Devils players.   The Devils' site page for  this package is clear on this matter:  "Bobblehead sets are available only to those who purchase this Bobblehead Pack and to full season ticket holders."   I assume that it's one bobblehead per game, but I could be wrong.  Also, if you're one of the first 100 people get to this package, you'll get an autographed bobblehead set.  Still, bobbleheads are the only feature in this package.  Great if you're a serious Devils collector or you're really into bobbleheads.  Otherwise, I don't see any advantage to getting this mini-package over getting games separately.

Champions_medium

At least the Bobblehead mini-package gives you something, however.  The Champions mini-package offers 4 games, no savings, whatsoever and as far as I can tell, no additional benefit for getting this mini-package.    If you want to secure a ticket for these 4 games and only those 4, then I guess this makes sense.  Otherwise, just go for these dates individually.

Original_six_medium

The other 4 packages offer deals in the Green section, which is the upper level on the sides of the arena. The first here is the Original Six mini-package.  The concept is similar to the Champions package - the appeal is clearly seeing the Devils host the Original Six teams this season.   

You do save a little money per game in this package; but that depends on what section you choose in this mini-package.  Truth be told, saving $1 to $5 per game isn't exactly enticing.  However, you do get a limited edition pin set with this plan.  I'm not sure what the pins are or whether or not pins are worth it.  Perhaps it's a big deal as the Devils have offered only 500 packages to begin with.  This is sort of like the Bobbleheads mini-package; great if you want to ensure your chance to see games against these 6 teams and you also are into collecting pins. Otherwise, it may not be worth your while to get this package.

Oktober_fest_medium

The Oktoberfest mini-package offers the same sections for the same prices as the Original Six mini-package. However, there's more appeal with this package. For starters, you get a free beer (or soda), a hot dog, and a cup at each game.  If I recall correctly, this is about a $17 value - roughly $7 for the beer, roughly $4 for the hot dog, roughly $6 to get one of those souvenir cups.  I could be wrong, but it's free food and drink per game.  So that's some additional savings if you normally get a drink or a hot dog at a Devils game, as well as a free cup.

The other appeal are the games themselves as you have the season opener against Our Second Most Hated Rival and the first game against Our Hated Rival.  OK, the package's page states that there will be a "FanFest" before each game to redeem the vouchers for the drink.  So it's not as if the Devils are offering free drinks right in the middle of the game.  I think it's still a rather bold move and perhaps a reason why there's even fewer total packages available - only 300.  Who knows how many are available now, but it offers a little more than Original Six package despite not giving much of a discount on the games themselves.

Weekend_warrior_medium

The Weekend Warrior mini-package are all back-to-back home games on, well, the weekend.  Well, the weekend being defined as Friday night and then Saturday night for the first 6 games in the package.  The mini-package has you pay for 6 games, which by themselves only offer a savings $1/game.  The real savings come from the 2 games the Devils throw in for free.  Therefore, you're really paying for 8 games and that's why the savings per game is so much higher.  It's a good move on the Devils part as it makes this mini-package a much better deal.

Plus, you get a t-shirt.  So, there's that. The package is "limited" but who knows what that means, I don't know why the Devils didn't list how many packages were available like they did with the Original Six and  Oktoberfest mini-packages.  I also don't know why they scaled back the section availability to just the upper bowl of the Rock.   Regardless, for those who want to have tickets for some nights out on the weekend, I'd say this is a pretty solid deal.

Hellsbells_medium

Lastly, there is the Hell's Bells mini-package.  It's similar to Oktoberfest in that all of these games or kept in one month: December.  It's similar to the Weekend Warrior mini-package in that the package is only for the Green and Light Blue sections and that you pay for 5 games and get 2 games for free, which drives the savings per game in this package. 

However, you save more money per game than the Weekend Warrior package despite getting one fewer game and you get a $50 card for concessions which definitely worth more than a t-shirt along with the mini-package. In fact, in terms of cost per game, you are actually paying just over the season ticket per game price in the Light Blue sections; and you are paying less per game than the season ticket holders in the Green sections!   My only complaint is that it's listed as "Limited Availability." Again, why not just state how many packages are available to begin with?  But that's a minor complaint.  I think this is just a great deal for the upper levels in December.

Overall, I'd rank the mini-packages by savings per game and benefits: Family 4-Pack, Hell's Bells, Weekend Warrior, Oktoberfest, Original Six, Bobbleheads, Champions.  The first three actually provides a good savings per game, the latter four does not.  So to answer the initial question: most of the mini-packages offer some benefits, but I really only save a decent amount per game with three of the seven mini-packages offered.

I don't know how well these have sold so far, so we shall see whether they are successful or not. However, as a suggestion, I'd have the Devils set up more mini-packages like the Family 4-Pack and Hell's Bells mini-packages. In those packages, there's a real savings per game with both packages and the benefits really add that incentive.  I imagine those are selling the best right now, though that's just a guess. I don't see the point in getting the Champions and the Bobbleheads mini-packages unless they were the only way to get tickets to those games.  Anyone could just get the 4 games offered on those plans separately and spend exactly the same on tickets.  The customer saves no money with either package. A discount like $5/game - across all sections, unlike the Original Six and Oktoberfest packages - would, I think, at least give the customer to consider getting the package instead of getting box office tickets.

Of course, that is my answer to the question.  You may find these mini-packages to be worth purchasing for other reasons. Maybe your situation forces you to only see games in a certain time frame (e.g. October, December, weekends, etc.), and so some these packages offer a different appeal.  Maybe you are a big collector and you've already went for those Bobblehead and Original Six plans.  Let me know what you think about the Devils mini-packages in the comments.   I'll get to the partial plans tomorrow.

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