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Friday, July 31, 2009

RPI Plans To Take More Money From Fans

One of the collegiate guilty pleasures you're going to have to get better accustomed to if you're a follower here is my fandom of the ECAC's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI, if you're nasty). The majority of my college hockey watching takes place at Houston Field House and I can virtually always be found there taking in an RPI game during hockey season.

So if you want to get into stalking me, enjoy beautiful Troy, NY.

So if you're curious as to why this latest bit of information from RPI found its way onto my radar, well, there you go. It reads like the standard "season is approaching, get ready to buy tickets" type of news, but this year there's a new spin.

The general public price remains as it has been in recent years for 14 home games, while four games feature premium pricing. The majority of contests will cost $10 for adults and $7 for children & seniors, while the four premium-priced games are $13 for adults and $10 for children & seniors.

The games with premium pricing are those against Cornell University on December 4, Union Coll
ege on December 9, Clarkson University on February 6 and Princeton University on February 20.

That's right, premium ticketing comes to ECAC Athletics. At long last fans can feel like they're part of the big time as they'll pay up more for tickets to the games they REALLY want to be at.

Great.

What do you think of this Dr. Horse?


Hmm... No sir, I don't like it.


OK so I'm having some fun here because being dreadfully serious is dreadfully boring and this isn't a topic that deserves to be lambasted, but it is a bit troubling for the future.

Premium ticketing for certain games is something that's not new to sports fans in general (many NHL teams already do this including the Sabres) and, let's face it, the cost for RPI games isn't outrageous by any means. A weekend homestand will run you $20, there's no price for parking and you'll get a good night out of hockey in, at the least, a semi-festive college environment.

What's a bit disturbing about this is, of course, the timing. RPI appears to be a team headed in the right direction.

After a poor regular season, the Engineers found their way in the playoffs upsetting and sweeping sixth seeded Dartmouth in the ECAC tournament first round and then taking ECAC Tournament finalists Cornell to three games in the quarterfinals before losing.

This year, the Engineers bring in two 2009 NHL Draft Picks with forwards Brandon Pirri (2nd round 59th overall to Chicago) and Jerry D'Amigo (6th round 158th overall to Toronto) as well as other forwards C.J. Lee and Marty O'Grady to join an already very young team. RPI has struggled and head coach Seth Appert has, for all intents and purposes, rebuilt the program in the last three years at the helm.

Whether the progress continues to bring success hinges a lot upon what this new crop of players can do immediately and with that the folks at RPI have apparently decided that folks will pony up no matter what, especially for certain games. The games they've got picked out are the traditional big ticket games each year taking advantage of the opponent or the situation.


Puckman wants to see you in Troy... And make you pay for it.

In the case with the game against Cornell, RPI is looking to capitalize upon the swarm of visitors that descend upon Troy from Ithaca each year and looking to make a few more bucks off of the fans from Cornell... Well really, paying more to come to Troy will really stick in their collective craws and that's just fun to make them upset.

Much is the same with the fans coming from Schenectady from Union College. Making those folks pay a few bucks more for the pleasure of visiting Troy makes me laugh because they hate to do it.

RPI's games against Clarkson and Princeton in February actually are premium tickets as far as RPI fans are concerned.

RPI and Clarkson are big time rivals in the ECAC, at least they are from RPI's standpoint. Clarkson tends to have more rivalry-like hate for the likes of St. Lawrence and Cornell. In this case, RPI has chosen their game against Clarkson to be Alumni night and they'll be honoring the 1985 National Championship as it'll be the 25th Anniversary of RPIs last national title and hey, you don't need a good excuse to bring Adam Oates and Daren Puppa back to town now do you?

Putting this event the same night as their game with Clarkson is a really nice coincidence though.

The game with Princeton is a convenient double-whammy as Princeton, traditionally, brings very few fans on the road which will not help them as this game is RPIs annual Big Red Freakout as well as senior night.

As that link explaining the Big Red Freakout says, fans can thank RPI for the NCAA rule banning noisemakers at games as the gift given out to fans in 1987 were horns and well... Wild, rambunctious and boozed up college kids with horns at a hockey game? I can't see how that ever turned out badly.

RPIs record in the Big Red Freakout is something quite remarkable (18-9-5 since 1978) and they'll be looking to get off a three-year winless streak in 2010 as well as avenging their Freakout loss to Princeton two years ago that saw the Engineers lose 4-0 in a game that wasn't even as close as that score indicates.

Four premium ticket games, two of which are actually premium games that will very likely be sellouts. It's a shrewd financially-driven decision by RPI to do this and, let's face it they're going to get the money they're looking for here. It is a choice that I worry will be taken advantage of in future seasons and leading to ticket prices going up.

After all, RPI does have a nice new athletic facility to show off and try to make money off of (not that it has anything to do with the hockey program) but since RPI has made headlines locally for cutting jobs and talking about financial hardships making a few bucks off their only Division I men's athletic program should be no surprise.

That's a whole 'nother rant entirely however.

I wanted to really tear ass about this more, but I can understand why RPI is doing premium ticket pricing for these games, I just hope that this isn't a harbinger of doom for the future.

Sure, college hockey ticket prices are a bit higher in the midwest (Denver University's single game tickets range between $17-$35 for example), but the demand out there is much higher as well so it makes sense. If RPI starts winning again, the long lost dormant RPI fans will come back and the students will be out in force if for no other reason than to be seen at the games.

As it is, the exhibition game with Prince Edward Island on October 3rd is a date most RPI fans cannot wait for just so they can finally get a look at guys like Pirri and D'Amigo on the ice in cherry, white and black.

I'm sure the coaching staff is hoping that the new class is able to inspire more goals and victories and make the fans want to come to Troy on the weekends once again.

5 comments:

Mike said...

As your team and arena get better, everything else gets worse. Here's the situation in Minneapolis:
- All single game tickets are over $30 (and if you don't buy them on the day they go onsale in September, you'll be buying on the street later on). Oh yeah, and the only ones available are scattered single seats or SRO.
- Parking costs $10, unless you feel like parking a long ways from the arena and hopping a bus across campus. Even on the west bank part of the campus, lots will charge about $5.
- There's a waiting list for season tickets about 2000 people deep, and it moves about 20 people per year.
- If your number on that list isn't worth a crap, your only other option is to make a donation to get season tickets. If memory serves, the minimum required is $500 per season per ticket. That's the donation, not the cost of the ticket (which is more than $500). Going this route will cost you about $1200 per ticket per season, minimum. Add in parking, and you're pouring about $1500 into a year of college hockey.

If your team becomes successful and develops a loyal following that sells out the building repeatedly, this is the future that awaits you.

Of course, since FSN is kind enough to show pretty much every game, I just say the hell with it and watch on tv rather than attend games.

FadeToBlackAndGold said...

Michigan Tech has done this for awhile, as games against NMU, WI, and MN, as well as both Winter Carnival tilts, are all marked up a couple bucks (I believe general admission is usually $15, which is already a pretty big stretch in the Houghton area, IMO).

You're right though, there's nothing new in your RPI example. When it comes to athletics, hype, past and present success, and facilities improvements tend to go hand-in-hand with price increases.

Good luck to RPI this winter.

Goon said...

General Admission tickets at MTU are only 15 bucks, that is really cheap.

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