An Overview of the New Jersey Devils' Variable Pricing for the 2011-12 Season

All of those fans (background) will be paying different prices depending on the day of the week and opponent in 2011-12. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Today at Fire & Ice, Tom Gulitti reported that the New Jersey Devils have announced their plans for individual single game tickets for the 2011-12 season. They will go on sale to the public starting September 9 and the announcement included three items of interest: a 3D Camera that shows off the view from a seat, the ability to select a specific seat in a section, and variable pricing for games.   All of this is available at the New Jersey Devils website, including the actual variable pricing itself and a schedule of games by pricing level. 

The Devils have three levels of pricing for games this season.  Premier, which is the most expensive; Classic, which is the most common; and 30th Anniversary Special (called "Special" from here on out), which is the cheapest.  The last one is a bit confusing since this will be the team's 29th season; but that's beside the point of today's news.

However, season ticket holders of the Devils, like myself, got more information than this today.  The organization emailed them information about when a pre-sale window for season ticket holders will open for a first crack at getting extra tickets. There are two, actually: August 30 through September 1 for the season opener against Philadelphia and "Retro Jersey" Night (Aside: Hey, the Devils are doing this again to the surprise of no one) against Pittsburgh on March 17.  The second window will run on September 6 through September 8 for all other home games.  To access those windows, you must purchase the tickets through the Devils. (Clarification Update: According to the Devils, after the first pre-sale window, those who sign up for Power Play can get into the second window. It won't be at season ticket prices, but it's good if you wanted to buy tickets before the general public.)

The letter also stated that while the ticket itself will show the single game price; the season ticket holder is only paying for the lowest price in their section.   Lastly, an attached pricing chart showed off the season ticket game price alongside the single game price by section and pricing level.  Oh, and season ticket holders can buy additional seats at that season ticket price any time all season - not just during the pre-sale.  At first sight, it shows that season ticket holders stand to save a lot in comparison to someone buying tickets individually.

Since I got all of this information, I want to share it all with you.  I've took the time to summarize the variable pricing levels by day of the week, month, and opponent.  I've also put the season ticket price along side the single game price and calculated the monetary and percent difference between the two.  Again, you will see dramatic difference for season ticket holders.  Please continue on after the jump to view this overview of the Devils' variable pricing for 2011-12.

Variable Pricing Level & The Schedule

I want to showcase the three levels by the schedule first, just to highlight how it breaks down with the schedule. According to the team's website, the three levels were decided upon by "the opponent, time of the year, day of the week, and rivalry matchups."  I can confirm that the team did just that, though there are a few odd decisions.  First, let's see the three levels by day of the week:

Variable_pricing_by_day_of_week

The Devils understandably had higher levels for Friday, Saturday, and (to a lesser extent) Sunday night games. Those three dates have no third level games.  This makes sense given that crowds are usually fuller on weekends than during the week.  Therefore, the cheaper Special level is relegated to mid-week games. Not all of them are cheap, since there are 8 Classic games on those dates as well.   The anomaly is Tuesday, which has 3 Premier level games in this coming season.  A quick peek at the opponents on Tuesday would completely explain why that is the case.  In any case, if you're looking to save some money, focus on those Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday games.

Incidentally, the total here shows the Devils going with a balanced approach to their levels.  There are just as many Premier level games as there are Special ones.   In my view, I now see the second level, Classic, as the standard level for game prices.

That takes care of the "day of the week," what about the "time of the year?"  Let's look at the levels by month.

Variable_pricing_by_month

I don't quite see how "time of the year" as a big factor, at first glance.  Premier games are more common in December and March; Classic games are common - especially in February; and Special games are just sprinkled throughout the year. Could there be a difference between the calendar years of the season?  One point in favor of that is that there are 15 Classic games in 2012 as opposed to 6 in 2011.  As a counterpoint, there are just as many Premier level games in 2012 as there are in 2011.   I'm not really convinced that the month is a seemingly big factor compared to the day of the week.  All I can really say is that if you're looking to go cheap, check out a game earlier in the season, I guess.

What about opponents?  The Devils did explicitly say that they were a factor, as are rivalries.  As you'll see in the following chart, the Devils focused on this to determine their levels - possibly almost as much as the day of the week.

Variable_pricing_by_opponent

As expected, the games against the Rangers (Our Hated Rivals) and the Flyers (Second Rate Rivals) are all top level games.  If Blueshirts and Pylonshirts want to brag about raiding the Rock, then they better be prepared to give a lot of money to Jeff Vanderbeek.  Incidentally, all three home games against the Rangers are on Tuesday night; which explains why there are 3 Premier level games in the middle of the week.  

As for the rest of the Atlantic Division, it's a little weird.  Two out of the three games against Pittsburgh were at the top level, including Retro Jersey Night on Saturday, March 17.  Shouldn't it be three, given the opponent? They are the Penguins, a team that did really well without superstar Sidney Crosby last season and will probably have the popular scoring machine back for this season? The third game is on a Sunday; I'm not sure why that is a Classic level game.  I would think the opponent plus the fact it's on a weekend date would warrant Premier level pricing.  I guess the Devils wanted to avoid loading up on Premier level games?  Moving on, the Islanders are the lone divisional opponent with no Premier level pricing when they visit the Devils.  It's another another piece of evidence of how that rivalry has faded over time.  Looking at the schedule, the Islanders-Devils game on Saturday, November 26 could have been deemed Premier level game, but the Devils figured otherwise.

Montreal and Washington get the distinction of being the only non-divisional, non-rival opponents with Premier level games at the Rock this season.  Montreal fans have come out in force at the Rock and one of their games is on Saturday, so the Devils moved them to the top level.  I like that move in that it forces the visitors to pay out.  In fact, I think the Devils could justify their other game - a Thursday night game on February 2 - as a top level game based on the visiting fans.   Washington is a big team for now, they feature a superstar player, and they visit the Devils on Friday night on Christmas Eve's Eve (December 23).   Why they didn't do that on their other Friday trip to the Rock in November, I do not know.   Perhaps the Devils were committed to balancing out the levels, so they had to keep some games at the second level that they could have charged more for.

There is one additional oddity in the schedule: the game against Colorado on March 15 is a Classic level game. I don't understand this decision. The Devils do have other Thursday night games with second-tier pricing. However, they're against more compelling opponents: the Islanders, Boston (defending Cup champions, after all), and Montreal. Two of those teams will probably be better than Colorado; and the Devils have more history against them.  Sure, there are some Classic level games against rare Western Conference opponents, but they're on Friday with the exception of Chicago on Tuesday, March 27.  Moreover, I'm not sure how the Avalanche game is a Classic level when the Columbus game on Wednesday, November 28; the St. Louis game on Thursday, February 9; and the Tampa Bay game on Thursday, March 29 are all in that third tier.   If the Devils needed four Classic games for Thursdays, I would have made the Tampa Bay game a Classic instead of Colorado.

Outside of all of that, I'm content with the levels.  If it were up to me, I would have increased the number of Premier games and made a change among the Special games based on opponent. That said, it's not worth fighting for more expensive seats from my standpoint.  Overall, it's clear to me that the biggest factors in determining the three levels are the day of the week and opponent more so than the time of the year.  I can understand most of what the Devils decided, attempting to maximize revenue against popular opponents while making games during the week against lesser opponents more attractive to the buyer.

At this point, you probably want to see the actual differences in prices.  Let's do it.

2011-12 New Jersey Devils Ticket Prices: Single Game Price vs. Season Ticket Price

The Devils came out with a more complex seating chart for 2011-12 compared to 2010-11. Therefore, I can't immediately say whether prices are higher, lower, or about the same compared with the prior season. I'll attempt to do that later this week.  However, what I have done is put the season ticket prices alongside the now-released single game price and show the price difference by the price level.

Single_vs_season_prices_by_section_2011_large

Needless to say, the differences between Premier, Classic, and Special levels are stark. For the individual ticket buyer, you're going to have to pay quite a lot of money to sit anywhere in the Rock outside of the upper level side sections for Premier and Classic level games.   The individual prices for the Special level games aren't as high, but they're not really all that cheap either.

However, look at those season ticket game prices.  In a word: wow.   Every section for every level except those in the Green section for Premier games saves at least 15% compared to the single game price.  People in the lower level like myself benefit; those in those fancy premium sections get some savings (though it's still quite expensive); but those in the upper level benefit the most.  The Royal Blue and Aqua sections provide massive savings for season ticket holders compared with their higher and consistent-with-Light blue pricing across all three levels. This justifies why the Balcony has split with the side-100s in the upper level on the seating chart. More importantly, the Devils clearly wanted more season ticket holders in the ends of the rink as opposed to the upper level sides. With this pricing set-up, I'm not sure what more they can do to convince people to get over there, really.

As for general trends across levels, the average gross savings decreases across the three section types when going from Premier to Classic to Special. The average percent difference among upper level sections increases when going down the three variable pricing levels; whereas it drops for premium sections.  I believe what drives this change in average percent difference are the big savings among the Royal Blue and Aqua sections, which get larger as the variable pricing levels go down. The same phenomenon happens for the Light Blue, Green, and Brown sections; though it is not as stark.  The lower level sees a slight increase in average percent difference going from Premium to Classic; but it drops from Classic to Special.   All the same, it's roughly at least 24% savings by section type for all variable pricing levels.   With this in mind, along with the utilization of the variable pricing levels, I'd have to say that I initially like that the Devils have switched to this variable scheme.  However, I'll be able to have a stronger opinion when I compare it with last season's ticket prices.

Since we know how many Premier, Classic, and Special level games there are in this coming season, here's the price difference between someone buying 41 individual tickets and 41 games on a full season ticket plan (I've calculated it for 41 games, though it includes preseason games, which I think are at no added cost) by section.   Again, the difference is massive and it doesn't include fees that come with buying tickets or taxes.

Single_vs_season_41_games_2011-12_medium

I will say, if you wanted to go to 41 games or more than 20 or so games, then you'd have to be pretty foolish to buy separate tickets in the same section.   You'd be better off with a full season ticket plan or something smaller like a half-season plan or one of the three smaller plans.  I believe those plans also charge the season ticket price per game, but I'm not completely certain about that.

Still, the price difference is significant across the board with the exception of the Green section.  The Devils aren't giving those season ticket holders much of a break compared to other sections around them in the upper bowl - or the rest of the arena for that matter.  I can understand some frustration from those who have been sitting there from this perspective.  

At the opposite end of the spectrum, your best bang-for-the-buck for a full season plan is the Aqua section.  They're massively cheaper on a per game basis and for the total of 41 games, it's cheaper than the Green section while being similar in distance much cheaper.  I've been up in those seats before, too; it's not at all a bad view to watch a hockey game. If I didn't love my seats in Section 1 (where I'm also enjoying savings compared to single game prices) or if I was considering season tickets for the first time, then I would be strongly considering saving quite a bit of money and move up to the upper ends of the rink.  Given past Devils pricing schemes, those seats at less than $1,000 for a season seems to me to be quite a good deal.

Your Take

Again, the big question remains: "Is this pricing scheme better or worse than last season's?"  I will attempt to answer that question in a few days.   In the meantime, I want to know your opinion of the variable pricing scheme and the single game and season ticket prices themselves.    Do you like the general concept of variable pricing levels? Do you like or dislike how the Devils are utilizing their variable pricing levels (e.g. the balanced levels, the opponents for the various levels, etc.)?   Are you surprised to see the magnitude of savings between season ticket game prices and individual single game prices; or did you expect to see something like this?  Do you think the Devils' plan to drive people to the Royal Blue and Aqua sections will work for season ticket holders, given their ?  Are you at least as glad as I am that the Devils finally released these prices to the public?   Please leave all your answers plus any other comments on these prices in the comments. Thank you for reading.

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