Thursday, February 24, 2011

Consol Energy Center: Not Great for Highest-Paying Fans

I attended my eighth Penguins game of the season last night. I have a lot of good things to say about the Penguins organization, the product they put on the ice and many of the seating locations in the new Consol Energy Center. But, the Penguins are really screwing the fans who are paying the most for tickets and premium seating. Here are some thoughts from my experience last night.

*The face value of my ticket (I was a guest) was $152, one of the most expensive in the arena. It was located about eight rows up from the ice on one of the blue lines. These are not good seats. Seriously. I don't blame this totally on the design of the arena. The dimensions of the ice surface and the glass are virtually identical at every rink. But from these seats, you can't see one end of the ice because you have to look through the glass four different times because of the location of the penalty boxes. That means you are looking at the scoreboard to see the action for almost half the game. It's a great scoreboard, but I have a similar contraption that works equally well in my house. There is no way the Penguins should be charging anywhere close to that price for those seats which are actually some of the worst in the entire building. Seats in the upper bowl and behind each goal are much better for viewing the game and are much cheaper.

*But these "premium seats," two large blocks on both sides of the ice between the two blue lines, give the ticketholder access to the Igloo Club, right? This is reserved for the team's best fans, right? Yes and yes. It does and the Igloo Club (Now actually called the Captain Morgan and First Niagara Clubs) is a disaster. The line for the men's restroom takes fifteen minutes at every intermission. Either you leave early before the end of a period or you stand in line the whole break. It gets an F- grade for design because it has fans entering and exiting from the same spot. Top that off with a paucity of urinals and you have some angry fans. To complete the picture add a couple of hundred square feet of unused space on either side of the restroom and a few hundred more dedicated to a totally unnecessary coat room and you have your most important and highest-paying fans completely blistered. At least half of the fans that I interacted with complained about the situation.

*In addition to that design flaw, the Igloo Club also offers fewer food selections and none of the premium brand choices available to fans who are seated in the rest of the arena. How is it possible that the highest-paying ticket holders are the ones most-restricted in their options? Also, alcohol is not allowed to be taken in or out of the Club. If you want to try any of the better food options outside the Club and have a beer with your food, well, you get the picture. Either you can't or you are going to watch some of the game on a food court monitor. God forbid you have an acquaintance who is seated in a different area. You might as well write off getting a beverage together. If the Penguins are kowtowing to private contractors who operate the Club facility, they need to change that policy ASAP. The one thing the Igloo Club does offer is space, but with long restroom lines and poor food options it isn't utilized.

*For the second consecutive game operations couldn't get the lights back up after turning them off during the first intermission. This time it lasted twenty minutes. If it happened on Monday, you can't let it happen again on Wednesday. And both games were nationally televised. Not exactly putting your best foot forward. I assume that won't happen again, but I also assumed that last time.

*There is no question the Penguins have put a fantastic product on the ice the past few years and they deserve great credit for that. They have paid to keep their best players, they have made savvy trades and they have drafted well. Even with all the injuries, the team gives a great effort virtually every game. Overall the organization is perceived to be fan-friendly, holding events like Student Rush that benefit many who might not be able to afford tickets to see a game in person. However, they currently risk alienating their best-paying customers buy milking every dollar out of them with incredibly expensive ticket prices while offering an experience that doesn't measure up to that which other customers, paying far less, are having. Time to upgrade that experience because I know plenty of fans who are already trying to relocate to cheaper and often better seats.

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