As background, I renewed as early as I did last season in no small part due to the fact that obtaining a season ticket package for this 2012-13 season meant that I was guaranteed a seat in the all-star game festivities. We all know how that turned out.
So, given the fact that there will be no All-Star Game enticement this time around, what will it take to get season ticket holders for next season? The team has been below the playoff qualifying line all season long - often in the NHL's sub-basement, although it appears that they're clawing their way back to something approaching respectability - and the bloom is being held on the rose only through the purge of hockey operations management. That's enough to keep this fan hanging around, but it's fair to wonder if it's enough to make me interested in dropping another big check when I could instead grab seats on a per-game basis. So what's it going to take?
The Blue Jackets appear to be fishing around on the same point, asking for relative preferences on things like player/team access, merchandise, special events and the like. But as I was thinking through their list, an idea came up - one that they didn't mention. So let me take a stab at something I would find acceptable if not downright exciting: Shared Risk - A partnership between the Columbus Blue Jackets and their fans.
Permit me to explain...
I'm a quarter season ticket holder, and I gather that my seats cost $45 each on the single game market through TicketMaster. With my quarter season package, I pay $38 each - a savings of $7.00, or 15%. Make a note of that number, for it will be important as I go forward
The Blue Jackets' goal in every season should be to make the playoffs at minimum, and it is something I would willingly pay full freight for. At the same time, I have a very, very hard time finding enthusiasm to swallow my 15 percent discount only to see the team challenging for the top draft pick. So let's work this into a formula where the team shares in the risk of ticket pricing through its on-ice performance. Try on this rough model (in a 16-team Eastern Conference, as it appears the Blue Jackets are headed that way):
- Playoff qualifying (Top 3 in the Atlantic Division or one of two Eastern Conference wild cards): Full price tickets - no discount
- Missing the playoffs by...
- 1-2 points: 10 percent discount
- 3-5 points: 15 percent discount
- 6-10 points: 30 percent discount
- 11 or more points: 50 percent discount
- Last place in the NHL: 75 percent discount
Let's keep expanding upon the prior thinking. Again, I'm happy as a clam to pay full price for a team that plays playoff hockey. Missing by one or two points means that we have a genuine playoff run on our hands, which provides sufficient entertainment to give some of my discount back. At the same time, it's not successful against the goal...so the team should give something back to their ticket package investors.
Missing the playoffs by 3-5 points means that the team has demonstrably improved but still fell short of a legitimate playoff run. I'll take my normal discount, thank you.
Then you start entering the world of fan disappointment. A six-point playoff miss in 2011-12 would be 10th place in the East, and a 10-point miss would be 12th. We're starting to talk draft lottery at this point, and the team is going to have to start giving greater concessions.
Missing the playoffs by 11 or more points in 11-12 means 13th or worse in the East. That's downright unacceptable. I can live with "effort" and "not being outworked" in this transition year, but we've seen that not being outworked can actually result in wins with a roster that lacks superstar talent. So, given our new hockey operations management and a full offseason to work over the roster, I think that this is territory that fans should be rewarded for their extraordinary patience with a refund of half of their ticket prices.
Last place in the NHL is totally out of the question. Giving 75 percent back is actually generous to the team.
This risk is totally insurable, just like player salaries are insurable against injury. Buy a policy (surely Nationwide Insurance could help work out the details if not underwrite the risk), and the team's financial position will be secure for a season while the team strives to not just avoid being bad but start being good.
Take your swag, free food nights and suite parties. Take your q's and a's, tunnels of pride and backstage passes. I'll give all that - gladly - to see the team actually win. Because that's what I've wanted all along.
But don't you dare take away my playoff ticket purchasing priority!