Before True North’s press conference devolved into a lengthy sales pitch for season tickets, there was an air of justice and patriotism in the crowd. I really sensed that a wrong was being righted, similar to the way a wrongly convicted man was getting his release. Of course, it’s borderline ludicrous to compare the two, but that’s the passion in Winnipeg right now. They’re getting NHL hockey back in town. Whether it remains there depends on how they sell out. And by selling out, I mean season tickets. 13,000 to be exact in a 15,000-seat arena. If True North can feed on this passion, MTS Centre will be the toughest ticket in Canada for years to come.
True North kicked off the sales campaign by launching a website, Driveto13.com. It describes the pricing plans, sales dates, and terms. There’s even a toteboard for fans and media to keep track of progress, and True North will be sending out a press release every afternoon with an update.
Winnipeg is a tiny market, with only 700,000 within its metro. It’s actually smaller than San Mateo County. Despite the passion for hockey in Winnipeg and throughout Manitoba, the NHL is most concerned with whether that passion can properly counterbalance that size problem. To assuage Gary Bettman’s concerns, True North is putting a few terms on ticket purchasers which should, if successful, address the franchise’s long-term viability in Winnipeg.
Prices are reasonable, we swear
A three-day presale will be afforded to season ticket holders for the Manitoba Moose AHL team, who were brought in when the Jets left for Phoenix. These ticket holders should be prepared for some sticker shock, as the highest priced seat package for the NHL team will be 3.5x the price of the same seats for the Moose. After the presale period ends the general sale begins, and that’s when it’ll get interesting. The NHL Board of Governors has to approve the move. Rest assured that they and Bettman will be looking at the toteboard with a critical eye.
Locking the fans in
An interesting tack being taken by True North is a mandate of multiyear commitments for season tickets. This is where the rubber meets the road, as it will demonstrate how far Winnipeggers’ passion will stretch. A median-priced seat in the lower bowl end or corner will require an outlay of over $14,000 over four years. The best seats will cost twice as much over five years. Only the worst season ticket pricing levels will have the option for half-season plans. To make the price easier to swallow, True North is also advertising monthly payment plans, which for the purposes of comparison amounts to the cost of a car payment (depending on how luxurious the car). Nominal deposts will also be required. One thing not part of the conversation is the dreaded personal seat license, which is a good move given the stigma associated with PSLs.
These are aggressive moves and goals for True North and Winnipeg. We’ll see soon see if the fan response translates into chopping away into the 13,000 goal over the summer. As for the team name, I hope the Jets are available. If not, I have a suggestion.
(BTW, I don’t really care for the name “Polar Bears”. I needed an excuse to insert the clip.)
There are also some potentially good takeaways for the A’s, and especially ballpark supporters in Oakland, a city that has limitations like Winnipeg (though not as severe). If a goal can be set, perhaps 15,000 season tickets, with 3-5 year commitments, that would go a long way towards convincing Bud Selig and the owners that Oakland is viable. The same could also go for San Jose, in that it would prove that the T-rights battle is worth it. In any case, though it’s tough to see hockey leave Atlanta a second (and final) time, it’s nice to see that hockey is back in Winnipeg, where it belongs. Good luck, Manitobans.