Last night Bubba and I went to the Leafs-Devils game and got to enjoy life behind the goal line, deep in section 13. We’ve shared these tickets with a group of about six guys for the past four years, and the move to the Rock presented some interesting challenges. Instead of four seats, the group only took two; instead of our usual spot three rows back but behind the left goal post we were moved to the corner to stay in the same price range. The new seats are just as good, view-wise, as the ones in the CAA, and I honestly can’t see why we would have paid more than double the per-seat price to sit one row closer to the ice. Think about it: the first two rows are “black seats”, $150 season ticket holder, $200 face value, if you go back to row 3 that goes down to $98/$115. There’s some microeconomic formula about elasticity of demand, total revenue yield equal to price times quantity sold, and margin of unsold inventory being fixed, but there’s a simple explanation: the pricing scheme doesn’t make sense for season ticket holders. That said, the first two rows of our section were full (more on this next entry) while we were the only two people in our row for most of the game.
After thoroughly rocking out on my first trip to Newark, I was eager to bring Bubba and get his teenaged impressions. He’s at that age where few things are new and interesting; he’s been to dozens of hockey games and has seen the inside of several new arenas and ballparks. He was also blown away; it’s the first time he’s asked to stop on the concourse and look at something (the equivalent of being pulled aside to read the fine print on a museum display). And we stopped on the main concourse, and then walked around the upper concourse as well. The Rock is an attraction for hockey fans, pure and simple. I think I could spend another three or four intermissions walking around before I felt that I’d seen most of the visuals it offers.
For me, the entire experience has to play well, not just the physical building and the team. So here are some more thoughts on the Prudential Center (somehow, I am going to have trouble calling it that; it sounds as silly as the “TD North BankCenter”, formerly known as the Bah-stahn Gah-den). In something resembling order of importance:
Security: Attention, Lou and Jeff: Getting into your new building is a huge pain in the rear end. I don’t mind being wanded down, and I appreciate the security at the entrances, but add some capacity here. Wednesday night, with maybe 9,000 fans there, it wasn’t an issue, but last night with reported and actual bodies closer to 14,000, it took us longer to get into the Rock than it did to get from Livingston to the parking garage. Half of the doors had no screeners, and some of the lines moved twice as slowly as others. Train these folks, get some more of them, and then get the outside security people to talk to each other. After standing at the north tower for a while, we were told to go to the south tower because there was “no line”. By the time we walked the length of the building, the south tower line was longer than what we’d just departed. Bad move.
Box Office: It appears the only box office windows are inside the towers, past security. Duh. I saw a group of about five guys look at the line, and then leave. Pretty much assured they won’t be back as fans. If you want walk-up, game-day fans, then you have to make the experience of getting a ticket as simple as possible. Follow the lead of Camden Yards and PacBell (ATT SBC MaBell WhatEver) Park, and put a ticket kiosk outside of the perimeter. It works.
Food: I’m in trouble this year. Big trouble. At CAA my game-day diet consisted of chicken fingers and Carvel, with a pretzel thrown in for good measure. So far I’ve had the Premio sausage (at the 7 City Grill, but not at the Premio Sausage cart because they had no food), and a chicken cheese steak. Both were reasonably priced and good. Bubba and I also ran into David Brummer, Livingston guy around town who has owned a deli in Newark for years, and has his own food service on the upper concourse in “Taste of Newark.” Bonus points for being authentic. We passed what looked like some good barbeque, and we saw at least one health-conscious fan (I’m generalizing; people who cast shadows that look like they came out of the xkcd comic I generally refer to as health-conscious) stop by the panini cart. I’m going to have a field day checking out the olfactory and culinary delights of the rink. Two requests: it would be great if the menus of similarly-named places were consistent, so that I could get the same thing at the same named place independent of concourse location (this isn’t the case), and there need to be more pretzel stands. I counted two spots where you could get a hot pretzel, and one ran out in the 2nd intermission. Oof.
Parking: I’ll admit it, I expected this to be a disaster. Last night was the true experiment, as we had a ticket for a Yellow area garage, not a Green open air lot. Getting in was remarkably simple; from car to gate was 3 minutes. Getting out, the line stretched through the garage and almost to the intersection of Commerce and Mulberry. There were a good 200 people in line in front of us; I phoned home and gave warning that we’d be an hour. Total time to wait in line and have the car brought up: under fifteen minutes. It was impressive, as I’ve waited longer than that at Johnny’s Official NHL Lot in NYC during the weekday rush hour, when I’m third in line. Really efficient, and a great wrap to a great game.
More on Toronto fans, why the dasherboard sign should read “Swedish Vish” (for Vitaly and Olli, even though O is Finnish), if there’s hope for Johnny Oduya, and the Devils power play later — I’m late for youth hockey.