This week, the new Prudential Center or “The Rock” as it will be called, opens in Newark. Only about 6 miles from my home, and available via short ride on public transportation, this new arena, home of my New Jersey Devils should be a dream come true for me. And from the perspective, I mentioned above, it is… sort of.
The public transportation is spotty in the best of times in that area, as New Jersey Transit is lacking in foresight. I really am afraid of what that is going to look like, at least until they get a clue and add more buses and trains on event nights. For example, I am actually lucky in that there are two separate bus routes that happen to pass my block. At around 10:30 or 11:00 pm (typical time for a hockey game or a concert to end), one bus is running at about 1 every 45 minutes, the other is about every hour or hour and 15. Bus full? Oh well wait another hour and hope you can get on. While it is easier for them to add a couple of cars to the trains, they also are running very intermittent at that hour. So if the event runs a bit long, or you have trouble navigating the crowd out and miss the train, Oh well, now you can wait another hour before you can even start your ride home.
But as a hockey fan, the hardest part for me to swallow, is something that I’ve known was going on, but tried denying it (to myself) for the longest time. Professional sports don’t give a damn about the fan. In today’s local paper (I don’t link to them, because they remove their stories behind a paid archive after 2 weeks), the headlines about the new arena read, “it is built, but will they come?” Referring to the “illusive fans” that it was believed did not attend the games in the Meadowlands because it had almost NO public transportation or easy access. But, rarely was the trouble in the Meadowlands really the fans.
With Tickets upwards of $95 (last time I went a couple of years ago), sure there were some seats empty. But the perception was really off. On a typical non “event” (i.e. playoff, games against the Rangers, etc), when TV cameras panned around, you saw a lot of empty seats. A lot of empty high priced or corporate owned seats. If the camera ever went up to the upper level (where the best seats were about $50), it looked far more “packed” But camera crews don’t pan the upper deck, all you see are the seats around the ice.
Fast forward to the new arena, those seats that were expensive (I think) at $95 in the old arena, now carry a face value of $200. Yes, you read that right. $200 for a single ticket for a single game. A regular season game. But this is exactly what I mean, when I say they don’t care about the fan. These seats are mean for “making deals” These are the seats that Prudential, and other corporations will own and give as perks to clients, partners, elected officials (did I say that?) etc. As a matter of fact nothing in the arena, short of an “upper balcony” seat goes for less that $65.Â Yes, there are actually a few $10 and $20 seats in the upper corners.Â But you better bring binoculars if you want to see anything more than “dots” moving around the ice.Â Any story about the new arena talks about the Two club lounges, the “goal bar”, terrace area, as well as the 350-seat gourmet restaurant, and 76 luxury suites that are all off limits to “ordinary people” that can’t afford Season Tickets.
So where does that leave “the fan?”Â Will they say “it is New Jersey”Â (again) and that New Jersey just doesn’t support its local team?Â Or will somebody realize that they are just pricing out the regular fans?Â Tell me… honestly… am I wrong?Â Can you imagine bring a family of 4 to a hockey game, getting mediocre balcony seats, and being out $260 on tickets alone?Â How many games would you be attending a year?
I know other sports have done it too.Â Football has been that way for quite some time.Â But unlike football, hockey doesn’t not have football’s following.Â Nor does it translate as well to television.Â And now they are cutting out the fans actually going to their games.
Is there nothing anymore that is just for normal people?Â Does it all have to be about corporate sponsorships, and corporate boxes, and corporate whatever else?Â What about the fan?