It's a cold Monday in North America. As promised, here's something to warm you up...
HOT HOCKEY OPINION #2
I'm hearing that NHL attendance is on the rise, but with my Center Ice package, I can see LOTS of empty seats...everywhere but Chicago, San Jose and Canada, or so it would seem. League attendance figures are based on tickets distributed, not on an accurate count of warm bodies occupying seats, so I understand the reason for the disconnect there. While sitting in the upper bowl at the American Airlines Center last week (watching Columbus'(non)distinct-kicking-motion loss to Dallas), I pondered the empty seats in the lower bowl until the proverbial light bulb came on above my head.
My first question was simple: What's the easiest off-ice way to generate excitement, both in the arena and for the fans watching at home? The answer was equally simple: Fill the lower bowl. Doing so would create more energy/more noise at ice level. The players would feed off this energy, which should make for a better game overall. The obvious next question was: How can you ensure that the lower bowl will be full every night? The conclusion I arrived at was revolutionary: TURN THE ARENA UPSIDE DOWN.
In every NHL arena, the lower bowl is home to the most expensive seats in the house (outside of a suite). Thus, those tickets are purchased by the more affluent consumers, with a significant portion going to corporate entities. On a regular basis, those corporate tickets go unused. When they are used, it's not very often that they're used by dedicated hockey fans. Instead, they're handed out as perks to employees or used to entertain clients. And let's be brutally honest about lower bowl seats: Unless you're sitting up high enough to see over the top of the glass, you're basically paying a premium for a seat with a partially obstructed view. In fact, the most expensive seats - on the glass - offer the arena's worst possible view of any action not occurring right in front of you.
On the other hand, the upper bowl is home to the middle class and blue collar hockey fans. By and large, they are more knowledgeable and passionate than their lower bowl counterparts. Upper bowl fans aren't there to see and be seen, or to network, or because their boss gave them two tickets in lieu of a Christmas bonus. They're in the arena to cheer on the home team, and they're present in greater numbers than the lower bowl fans. So, you fill the lower bowl by turning the arena upside down.
Make the lower bowl seats the "cheap seats". Renovate the upper bowl, making the seats and aisles wider. Provide wait staff in the upper bowl, so that fans in the rarefied air only need leave their seats to go to the restroom or home. In your advertising, emphasize the fact that the upper bowl actually affords a better view of the game (which would be an all-too-rare occurrence of "truth in advertising").
Turning the arena upside down will ensure a lower bowl full of loud, passionate fans every night. Not only will the players be motivated, but the noise, the spectacle, will carry over to the TV broadcast of the game, undoubtedly generating additional ticket sales. Is it a radical idea? On the surface, perhaps, but it's not without historical precedent: In Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, the "groundlings" stood at the foot of the stage while the elite members of society sat in galleries set back from the stage (so they wouldn't have to smell or otherwise interact with the groundlings). The system worked quite well 450 years ago. There's no reason why it wouldn't work today.
Over the last few days, I've let the league know how many goals/game teams need to score in order to ensure a playoff berth, eliminated the shootout , and helped make the NHL more exciting in the arena and on TV. You're welcome, Mr. Bettman. Tomorrow, I might end world hunger, cure cancer, or offer up another Hot Hockey Opinion. Which one will it be? Tune in Tuesday to find out.
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