Winter Classic means business

Winter Classic souvenirs are on display at Citizens Bank Park.
Winter Classic souvenirs are on display at Citizens Bank Park. (YONG KIM / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER)
Posted: December 28, 2011

TAMPA, Fla. - Last year, the Winter Classic raked in approximately $22 million in additional revenue for the city of Pittsburgh with fan spending on lodging, meals and merchandise.

Over the next 2 weeks, Philadelphia is set to blow that number away with the Winter Classic coming to Citizens Bank Park on Jan. 2, despite the game being played in a venue with 23,000 fewer seats than Heinz Field.

That's because the Flyers are also squeezing in two other sold-out events, a Flyers-Rangers alumni game on Dec. 31 and the Phantoms' AHL contest with Hershey on Jan. 6. Total ticket sales should exceed 125,000.

"Certainly, less seats mean less out-of-town visitors, but for the first time in the Winter Classic history, we've had a huge marketing push for all three events," Comcast-Spectacor chief operating officer Peter Luukko said. "That triples the economic impact for the community."

The ticket breakdown for the 44,000-plus-seat Citizens Bank Park was 20,000 for the Flyers, 10,000 for the Rangers, 4,000 for the Phillies, and the remaining allotment to the NHL for a public lottery, sponsors and business partners.

As hosts, the Flyers certainly made out in the deal. They took care of all 18,000 season ticketholders for the regular-season game, guaranteeing them an opportunity to purchase as many seats for the Winter Classic as they do home games.

But there was a catch. Not only did Flyers season ticketholders have to purchase a ticket to the game - not included as one of the 44 on their schedule - but they were available only in a three-pack with the Phantoms and alumni games. Fans buying tickets from the league, Rangers or Phillies did not have the same stipulation.

The face value of tickets ranged from $75 to $385, with a certain amount of limited-view seats given to local youth hockey and community partners. Those numbers are a bit pricier than the $50-to-$250 range in Pittsburgh last year, but close to the $50-to-$350 range in Boston in 2010.

Still, coupled with the other two contests, the cheapest package for season ticketholders hovered around $150, before taxes, fees and shipping. A three-game package in the Hall of Fame club topped out at $650. If that did not rankle fans enough, the fees associated with purchasing tickets ran from $30 to $104.

According to Luukko, those fees are in the same neighborhood of other "big-event" tickets. Since Comcast-Spectacor owns ComcastTix.com, which collects the convenience fees, it reaps the entire profit instead of splitting it with a separate broker like Ticketmaster.

"We have not changed our fee schedule for the Winter Classic," Luukko said. "Those numbers are right in line with other big events, like the NCAA Final Four, a big concert or the Super Bowl. Since ticket prices are so high, a bigger cut goes to the credit-card companies."

Ticket fees associated with the Final Four and the Super Bowl were not readily available online. A secondary reseller, like StubHub, collects 15 percent of the amount sold, plus $5. Translated to the Hall of Fame tickets at face value, for instance, StubHub would charge $102.50 plus shipping in fees, compared with the $104 that the Flyers charged.

This week, the Flyers announced additional public-skating times and capacity limits for fans to take a spin on the Winter Classic ice after the initial sessions sold out. All tickets, priced at $60 for adults, $45 for kids, and $10 for spectators, were sold out. Those prices did not include a skate rental.

"I think to be able to skate on a ballpark on the same spot where the Phillies won the 2008 World Series is pretty cool," Luukko said. "Plus, to add the Phantoms on the weekend really adds to hockey exposure in Philly. It gives people who may not have had an opportunity to buy tickets a chance to come and see what it's all about."

Comcast-Spectacor also brokered three deals for additional games at Citizens Bank Park, including two college games, Penn State vs. Neumann College on Jan. 4 and the club teams at Drexel and Villanova on Jan. 6, and a high school game, Malvern Prep vs. La Salle on Jan. 4, to fill out the schedule.

Luukko said that it costs "at least $20,000 per day" to keep the rink up and running at the Bank after the main event is over.

For the game between club teams Drexel and Villanova, sources indicated that the schools were charged $35,000, split evenly between the two teams. The money was raised privately at Drexel. At Villanova, school president Fr. Peter Donahue put up $7,500 of his own money to ensure the Wildcats' participation. The teams were charged an additional $2,000 to have a locker room and another $2,000 just to turn on the scoreboard in the outfield. It is unclear how much the high school teams or Penn State and Neumann were asked to pay. Teams were able to recoup money spent, however, based on tickets sold at $10.

Off the ice, Luukko said that the merchandise sales at the Wells Fargo Center alone have made for the best Christmas season on record. More than 2,000 official Winter Classic jerseys have been sold by the team, not including any sold by NHL.com or other commercial outlets. Other smaller items, like sweat shirts, winter toques and pucks have sold well, too.

"This event is a great way to showcase not only our city but how far hockey has come in Philadelphia," Luukko said. "They used to say that the only Flyer fans in town were the 17,000 that went to games. This is a 'Flyer town' and more importantly, a true hockey town that is right up there with the likes of Minnesota, Chicago and Boston."


For more news and analysis,

read Frank Seravalli's blog, Frequent Flyers, at

www.philly.com/FrequentFlyers. Follow him on Twitter at

http://twitter.com/DNFlyers.

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