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At Barclays Center, average price for Islanders' tickets rising 70%; despite Yormark spin, they're selling many obstructed seats

There are a couple of very interesting tidbits in the Wall Street Journal article yesterday, Islanders Making Their Move to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Yes, tickets are selling well:
Before the Islanders’ full season schedule was announced last week, Brett Yormark, CEO of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets and of Barclays Center, said more than 8,000 Islanders full-season-ticket plans had been sold: 25% from Long Island, 21% from Manhattan and, somewhat surprisingly, 33% from Brooklyn.
The Islanders have a good team, and can build in a new--or at least expanded market. The average ticket price will be $85--that's $35 (or 70%) more than at the Nassau Coliseum but, according to Yormark, about the league average. Still, it's quite a leap.

The capacity issue

From the article:
Yormark has had to address Barclays Center’s shortcomings. The arena was built to hug a 94-foot-long basketball court, so the 200-foot hockey rink had to be nestled into one end of the arena, prompting the removal of most of four sections of seats at that end.
Additionally, after the Islanders played two preseason games there in each of the last two seasons, several of what Yormark called “horribly obstructed seats” above that end won’t be sold, reducing seating capacity to 15,795, about 2,000 fewer than at Nets games.
That makes Yormark sound like a concerned fellow rather than the relentless marketer he is.

After all, as I reported, arena officials in June 2012 said there'd be only 14,500 seats, of which about 1500 would be obscured, a consequence of an arena built specifically for basketball.

When hockey debuted in September 2013, Joe DeLessio of New York magazine wrote There Are Some Pretty Bad Seats for Hockey at Barclays Center:
Last year, when the Islanders were scheduled to play the Devils in a preseason game at Barclays, the seating chart for the game showed that most seats on the west end of the arena wouldn’t be sold, thus giving the hockey seating bowl a sort of horseshoe shape. (That game was never played because of the NHL lockout.) And when the Islanders announced plans to move into Barclays last year, they said the arena’s hockey capacity was at 14,500 but could possibly be bumped up to 15,000 or "15,000 plus." The official hockey capacity is now 15,813. But no major renovations took place; the arena simply decided to sell the obstructed-view seats. It’s not false advertising — the seats are labeled as “limited view,” and they’re less expensive than they’d otherwise be — but the arena doesn’t exactly broadcast the fact that the west end of the arena is far from ideal for hockey. (A Barclays Center spokesperson didn't immediately respond to a question about the decision to sell these seats or a request for a chart of the 416 seats in the hockey configuration that Yormark said last week wouldn't be offered for sale because of sightline issues.)
So they've gone down to 15,795 from 15,813, a reduction of all of 18 seats. Even if they've added some seats with full views, that still suggests they're selling lots of "not-quite-horribly obstructed" seats.

So those numbers allow the Barclays Center to exceed the one smaller arena in the NHL, MTS Centre in Winnipeg, which seats 15,016.

The numbers

The Journal notes that the Islanders averaged only 15,334 fans last season in Nassau during the regular season. With a bigger market, and more expensive tickets, they don't have to draw as many people to reap higher revenues.

But we don't know the contours of the deal between the team and arena. The Wall Street Journal reported that the arena, rather than getting rent from the hockey team, guaranteed an unspecified annual payment in return for the revenues.

The New York Post reported that the arena’s owners guaranteed the Islanders about $50 million in annual revenue for regular season games--which hasn't been publicly confirmed.


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