In response to popular demand, the Prince George Cougars have brought back age-based pricing to their ticket pricing strategy.
Kids aged 2-18 and seniors 65 and older will pay less for season subscriptions for games at CN Centre if they choose to sit in either main grandstand section (Red Zone) between the two goal lines or the end zone behind the goal line (Blue Zone) in which the Cougars are the attacking team for the first and third periods.
A season membership in the Red Zone including all fees will cost each adult $650 ($19.11 per game, based on 34-game home schedule), while the Red Zone price for seniors and youths drops to $495 ($14.56 per game). In the Blue Zone an adult season membership is $550 ($16.18 per game), and $495 for seniors/youth ($14.56 per game).
The discounted rate does not apply to the White Zone (Cougars' end zone), Green Zone (glass seats in the attacking zone) or Purple Zone (glass seats in the Cougars' end). White Zone season memberships will cost $430 ($12.64 per game). A Green Zone season ticket is $285 ($8.38 per game) and a Purple Zone membership costs $262 ($7.70 per game).
"We continue to listen closely to our customers because a major part of our job is to give customers what they want and we feel as if we've had some very good feedback about our choices for pricing these days," said Andy Beesley, the Cougars vice-president business.
"We wanted to acknowledge the fact there are still some people, especially in our most expensive seats, who want to come to our games and sit in sections they used to sit in but they need some sort of a (price) break and we're quite happy to do it."
In May 2017 the club announced it was dropping age-based ticket pricing, choosing instead to sell tickets based on where the seats are located in the arena. The initial four-tiered system dropped the price of tickets in the first four rows of seats behind the nets to $7 per game. But it also raised the price of a season ticket as much as 60 per cent for seniors in the most expensive seats. In response, several hundred longtime subscribers decided not to renew their ticket subscriptions.
"I think we're way past that," said Beesley. "For sure some people were happy and some people were unhappy about our prices. What we never talk about is the fact we've also gained a great deal of new customers that are very happy with our prices. We now have families with young kids who buy full-blown season memberships who never in a million years would have come to us before, with our old pricing structure.
"The last thing the Prince George Cougars want to do in this community is to be unwelcoming or unresponsive to customers and we've heard enough comments that we've thought we're totally willing to adjust even further to try and make this so we're as flexible as possible with our prices."
Beesley said the Cougars compare favourably with other teams in the league and in other major junior leagues across Canada.
"I don't think there's any other teams in the league that do $7.70 games," said Beesley. "Our Red Zone prices, which are our most expensive season memberships, are very competitive (compared) to other B.C. teams. Now that we're offering breaks to seniors and youth if they choose to sit in those most expensive zones we're limiting what they have to pay to what we think is a very reasonable price."
The team will announce in the fall the prices for its walk-up tickets, which will give fans five zone ticket choices as well as senior/youth discounts.
In 2013-14, the season before the team was sold to EDGEPRo Sports & Entertainment Ltd., the Cougars averaged a league-low 1,693 fans per game. The change in ownership resulted in a surge in attendance, averaging 2,852 in 2014-15, 3,122 in 2015-16 and 3,626 in 2016-17. After three consecutive seasons of attendance increases crowds at Cougar games have declined in each of the past two seasons, from 3,024 in 2017-18 (when age-based pricing was dropped) to 2,707 in 2018-19. It didn't help that the team stumbled on the ice, finishing last in the Western Conference this past season with a 19-41-5-3 record.
According to hockeydb.com, that 2,707 average last season ranked the Cougars 19th in attendance in the 22-team WHL, ahead of only Prince Albert (2,615), Swift Current (2,398) and Kootenay (2,214). Of the B.C.-based teams, Kelowna led the way with a 4,838 average (seventh-best), followed by Victoria (4,818, eighth), Kamloops (4,007, 11th) and Vancouver (3,826, 14th). Edmonton led the league in attendance (7,661) followed by Calgary (7,363) and Spokane (5,959).
"I don't see us suffering at all," said Beesley. "On the worst night, at minus-30 on a Tuesday on a doubleheader we still had over 2,000 legitimate tickets out there. On our best night, the last night of the season in a mean-nothing game, we had 5,200 people in the building. We had close to 100,000 legitimate tickets out there this year for our games. Would we like another 1,000 people per game, of course we would, and we are certainly hoping we can build our numbers this season.
"We understand that winning is part of the equation but we also know that even when our team is in a rebuilding phase we have great entertainment here every night and unbelievable ticket prices."
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