Imagine learning that your rent is going to increase nearly ten-fold.
That essentially is the shock some Florida Panthers season-ticket holders are facing with the pending plan to convert three sections in the lower bowl at BankAtlantic Center into a high-end premium seating area called Club Red. Seats would cost $20,000 or more a year, and would cover food and beverages in a plush lounge area and provide access to other events at the BAC.
More details about Club Red are in my news story.
Some of those who have tickets in sections 101, 102 and 134 have called and emailed various writers and editors at the Sun Sentinel to express outrage at the plan.
Because those sections encompass some of the best seats in the house, it is the domain of many well-entrenched season-ticket holders. Two who I spoke with are among about 300 remaining original season-ticket holders from the Panthers’ inception at Miami Arena in 1993.
Mickey Kay, of Coconut Creek, who has had seats for 10 years, said, “I don’t care about going to concerts. The only basic entertainment that I really enjoy is coming to the hockey games. They’re driving the good guys away that have been supporting them for years. It seems they’re going to go for the corporate dollar.”
Plans for Club Red haven’t been finalized, but Michael Yormark, Panthers president, said Friday, “We’re leaning toward moving forward.” It would open in July 2012 for other events at BankAtlantic Center heading into the Panthers’ 2012-13 season.
Yormark said Club Red isn’t designed for a corporate clientele and pointed that more than 80 percent of current season-seat holders are individual consumers. But clearly it’s far out of reach of most household entertainment budgets.
“We probably need to sell about 200 memberships, which is not that big a number when you think about the size of the market. We have a lot of confidence that we’ll get this done,” Yormark said. “We’re not creating something that’s never been done before. Many buildings around North America are also moving in this direction as it relates to all-inclusive seats in the lower bowl. Our pricing for these seats will be on the very, very low end of comparable seats in the South Florida marketplace when compared to other venues.”
Clearly, the Panthers are banking heavily on General Manager Dale Tallon’s efforts to quickly end the Panthers’ 10-year playoff drought.
“A year from now, or two years from now when the Panthers are back in the playoffs and we’re selling out every game, to move forward with a transition like this in a situation where you’re already sold out would be very challenging. Now’s the right time to do it,” Yormark said.
Here is more of what Yormark said during a 20-minute interview.
On the motivation for creating Club Red:
“Our responsibility is to continue to find ways to increase our revenue so that we can maintain this beautiful facility and so that we can continue to put a competitive product on the ice. … I had one [fan] ask me today, ‘Does this mean with this program that it protects the future of this franchise, that it will enable the franchise to continue to fund a hockey team that can be very competitive?’ My answer was, ‘Absolutely. Yes.’”
On the reaction of fans who will be displaced from the three sections for Club Red.
“I think the initial reaction is going to be emotional. These are people who have had these tickets for many, many years. These are people who consider these locations as an extension of their home. I’m glad that our fans are so passionate. When they look at the options we’re giving them, most if not all of them are going to be very happy with the solution.”
On how ticket-holders in those sections will be accommodated.
“The reality is we have comparable seats in the building that we can relocate these individuals to if they choose. I can tell you that everybody that we’ve spoken to one-on-one has been satisfied ultimately with the solution that we’ve recommended. … From a customer-service standpoint, we are committed to making sure we find the right solution for each and every one of our season-seat holders so they can continue to enjoy Panthers hockey.”