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WJC Tickets and Parking – Marketing 101

Filed under: Puck Stop, Sports

One of the funniest quotes I caught had something to do with a fan who paid $46 for parking and a pair of tickets to a day game earlier this week at the World Juniors. “Only I never expected that 40 of it would be for parking and the rest for tickets,” or something to that effect was the comment.

And that is the lesson of the topsy turvy world of dollars and cents as we head to Day 5 of play at the World Juniors Championships here in Buffalo.

So far the action on the ice has gone as expected. Canada and the United States have looked incredibly strong in their inexorable march to the finals. Sweden and Finland have shown flashes of artistry and talent. Bad boy Zack Kassian of Team Canada gets spanked yet again for delivering another crushing hit. Norway and Germany look hapless and hopeless as they punch their tickets for the relegation round.

So the headlines scream “Parking”. Fans showing up for the day sessions have been subject to fees of as high as $60 to attend all the games of any particular day. The Mayor is outraged. He is contacting the Attorney General. He is demanding an investigation.

Much ado about nothing.

These sort of parking rates, while eye popping according to Buffalo standards, are not that unusual in larger markets. Heading to Toronto to catch a Blue Jays game or a Bills in Toronto game? Want to park right next to or underneath the Rogers Centre? Check the price on the sign, it ain’t pretty. And that doesn’t even include P.S.T. or G.S.T.

Here is the truth about downtown parking. On any given business day here in the city, parking lots and ramps throughout the downtown core sell spaces for $6 maximum for the entire day. That’s SIX dollars!!! Fans attending games can park, then (heaven forbid) endure a ten minute walk to the arena, or better yet, head over to Metro Rail and enjoy a free ride right to the the front door of the arena. Trains run every ten minutes.

If fans choose to want to park right outside the front door of the arena, then expect to pay. If the price is too high for your tastes, find alternatives they are out there.

I am one of those people who is loathe to pay for parking. When we are on one of our USRTs, I actually do advance recon on the venue I am visiting, to check out the parking options, pricing and alternatives, and more often than not Pete and I snag a free or cheap spot. Yeah it involves a bit of walking, but so what we both can use the exercise.

Looking for free parking tips at PNC Park in Pittsburgh or Citizens Bank Park in Philly or Citifield in NY? Even where to grab free parking at Air Canada Centre in Toronto or where the cheap $5 lots are up there? We know the spots! It only takes a bit of research and hunting. So in what arrogant twisted argument is there that we should provide cheap and ample parking for our Canadian visitors a half a dozen steps from the arena’s pavilion doors?

Even more ridiculous… Mark Croce, downtown developer, investor extraordinaire and all around good guy, is being skewered in the media for his proprietorship of one of these lots (he leases the spaces around the vacant Donovan building from the ECHDC). The fact of the matter is this – many lot proprietors, not only Croce, and including some city owned lots, have instituted a variable pricing and per game pricing policy for the WJC, and at box car prices to boot. Mark Croce is not the villain here. Every fibre of his being inside this man screams passionately for downtown Buffalo, and he has walked the walk and spent his dollars to build city dining establishments, nightclubs and parking structures, when others have chosen the safer suburban route for their investments. He stands alone right now in offering a plan to bring the Statler back to life. And the Mayor demands an investigation? Outrageous!

If the city wants to regulate parking rates, fine. Enact an ordinance, cap day rates at say, $20, and be done with it. But investigations? Here, I have plenty of fodder for investigations… Over at the Hyatt Hotel, a bottle of water or a soda pop is offered in the hotel mini bar for $4.50 or $5. TIME TO PROSECUTE!!! Bring these bandits to justice.

If you’re a hotel guest, you have choices… drink the product and pay the price, or head over to Rite Aid or Valero and buy the same product for 90 cents and take it back to the room, or drink tap water, or none of the above.

At Embassy Suites, hotel rooms which normally go for $139-$159 a night are commanding prices of $249 during the tournament. TIME TO PROSECUTE! Bring these bandits to justice.

Or… go online and find a cheaper room. They are available, and yes even downtown if one cares to take the time and at better price points than the ritzy Avant. Or stay out in Cheektowaga or on the Boulevard and come downtown for the games via Metro Rail.

Meanwhile, at the arena, a roast beef sandwich with a pickle and kettle chips at the Pour Mans Aud Club will set you back $8.50. Over at Arby’s you can buy a sack of five roast beefs for $5.95. I DEMAND AN INVESTIGATION! Bring these bandits to justice.

Get my drift? The free market works best when people make their own purchase choices, with governmental guidelines to set standards but after that minimal government intrusion.

Now as to tickets…

Appearing on the HD Board right now at the games is an ad offering tickets to a “Priority Ticket Draw” to the 2012 WJC games in Alberta.

Excuse me, but were’t we fed this same kool-aid for these games in Buffalo just about a year ago?

The marketing plan dished out by the IIHF and the Buffalo Sabres offered the ticket buying public all session passes to attend all 21 games downtown, or even 31 games if you count the contests at Dwyer Arena. The impression was given that if fans didn’t pony up for these blocks of tickets, they would be shut out from getting into the building for even a whiff of this historic event.

What a crock!

The Sabres claim to have sold around 12,000 of these all session passes. Either that is not true, or given the actual in seat attendance at games not involving Canada or the United States, there are thousands upon thousands of tickets sitting in bureau drawers at home going to waste.

Except for opening day this past Sunday, even the Team Canada games have failed to sell out. Yes the arena was pretty full, and the Canadians were loud and deep throated and passionate and there was a real atmosphere to those events, but otherwise this has been an easy, and as it turns out, a very cheap ticket. But just as with parking, if the buyer wants to take the time and effort to make a wise purchase decision, he/she can score some very good ticket deals.

As late as November, the Sabres were still creating this illusion that tickets were selling like hot cakes, get ‘em fast or you will be left out. Then right after Election Day came the quiet announcment that there would finally be some limited ticket sales for non all-session buyers, but these would be “all day passes”, requiring the purchaser to buy tickets for all the games on any given day.

Did you jump online and get in on this? If you did, in hindsight, you were an idiot.

The chinks in the facade finally began to appear around mid-November, when the Sabres quietly offered a half price ticket offer to its season ticket holders and insiders, even to the gold medal game. At that point I asked Sabres spokesman Mike Gilbert if this indicates that ticket sales aren’t going that well, and this is a sign of desperation. “Not at all,” Gilbert replied. “This is a special bonus for our best customers, who hopefully will remember that they were given this opportunity when it comes time for them to renew their Sabres tickets for next season.”

But the special offers and discounts just keep on rolling. Enjoy Tim Horton’s coffee? Enter the code “TIM” and get half price tickets. Serve in the military? Have we got a ticket deal for you! Pre-op tranny? It’s “chix with dix” night and half price lower levels at the Germany/Slovakia game. OK, again I’m getting silly but the dirty little secret is that the Sabres are quietly papering the house to put people in the stands. That’s not a bad thing, but those who made the investment in all session passes, or who jumped on line early, have been fleeced. And the beneficiaries have been those who showed up late to the party, as tickets on the streets are going for a fraction of face value, and over at Stubhub tickets for the non-Canada or non-USA games are available by the hundreds at single digit prices.

Coming down Thursday, Friday or Sunday? Try Craigslist, eBay or StubHub or just hit the streets. There are bargains galore.

But then get ready, because all this will change.

Monday it’s the semi finals, and if the expected happens, and Team USA and Team Canada appears in each of these games, and if those two teams meet in the finals, expect demand to skyrocket, and for prices to go through the roof.

At the Sabres’ web portal, only singles remain for the gold medal game, and mind you those tickets run $150 each in the 300s. The $250 tickets in the lowers and clubs are also down to single seats only.

It will only get more intense and more crazy as the knockout round unfolds beginning Sunday. At the conclusion of Friday’s action we will know if the Yanks and Canucks have won byes right to the semi finals. If so look out!

Supply and demand… Marketing 101… Economics 101… It is the bedrock of our way of life in this country. Make your ticket purchases and your parking choices and your food/beverage buys wisely.

Four games on tap, two each at HSBC Arena and Dwyer Arena. I’ll be covering downtown while Farrell will be over in Lewiston. Enjoy the Games here on Day 5!

  • Kate

    Surprised to see Artvoice taking this stance on the parking hullabaloo. The argument “everyone else is doing it” didn’t impress your parents when you were in high school, and shouldn’t impress city leaders now when they’re considering what to do about all of this.

    I don’t have a problem with these lot owners raising their rates *somewhat,* the way they do during any other event. But I do see going from $6 to $60 as gouging, and I think it makes the city look bad.

  • Scuymk Johnson

    How short-sighted can you be? Do you even have a clue what’s been going on in these lots?

    The problem wasn’t with the price as much as it was with the deception. People would see signs for $30 parking then, upon pulling into the lot, would be told the price was $50 – just absolute bait and switch tactics. And if the deceptee wanted to exercise their right in the “free market economy” they’d have to ask the five cars that just pulled up behind them to back up so that they could leave.

    Please tell us with a straight face that this is perfectly acceptable.

  • Buck Quigley


    Your post is a whole lot of words to explain…what?

    That you have no trouble traveling the globe to bring us the never-ending spectacle of sport? Must be nice.

    Let me share a little memory of seeing the Buffalo Sabres when they were actually an affordable diversion for a Dad and a son. I’ll show you the Super 8 movies if you like. I’ll show you the Punch Imlach autograph. I cheered for Eddie Shack. I was there in the gray seats–remember those? I know it because my Dad used to hold me up on his shoulders in the smoke-filled lobby to buy tickets for the next game right there at the Aud box office. My Dad was a WWII vet who saw more combat than any bunch of pussies dropping gloves on the ice, and had a hell of a lot more wisdom and class than you exhibit in your ridiculous Marketing 101 … Economics 101 … explanation.

    I don’t know which junior team will win, and don’t much care now, because I was under the impression that this whole event was supposed to be a great boon to our community…not an embarrassment. It’s a damn shame for the competitors. Families didn’t travel to Buffalo to be taught a lesson in opportunistic greed by a bunch of local creeps.


  • Becky

    “Have we got a ticket deal for you! Pre-op tranny? It’s “chix with dix” night and half price lower levels at the Germany/Slovakia game.”

    So, if it’s “chix with dix” night, why don’t you take a pre-op trans”chix” along with you to the game then and get a free ticket, dearie?;)

  • WTF

    a) Is that actually a comment from Buck Quigley? b) It seems likely given Buck Quigley is such a cursed moron and the comment itself is breathtakingly stupid that it seems like a match made in heaven.

    Wah, my daddy brought me to the Aud and he was in WWII, wah, and he had wisdom not like hockey guys who fight (paging non sequitur). Wah, this whole event was supposed to be a boon to our community and 4 Canadians got charged $50 to park so the whole thing is ruined, wah wah wah.

    If there’s a more annoying human on the planet than Quigley, I’ve yet to encounter them. Thankfully.

  • Buck Quigley

    “a) Is that actually a comment from WTF? b)It seems likely given WTF is such a cursed moron and the comment itself is breathtakingly stupid that it seems like a match made in heaven (sic).

    Wah, my daddy…(sic)…

    If there’s a more annoying human on the planet than WTF, I’ve yet to encounter them (sic).”

    Well said. I can see why you choose to remain anonymous.