some more thoughts on giving up the season tickets…

When I posted that we intended to give up our season tickets after 20 years, it generated some interesting comments and a fair number of private emails.  We heard from a number of long-time sharks fans, folks we’ve known since the early days of the Sharks mailing list, and got similar thoughts from any of them — either they have given them up, or are considering it.

Almost none of them were down on the Sharks, either. Like us, it really was more the time commitment, and how over time other things kick in and make spending that much time going to games more challenging.

Derek’s view is somewhat different:

Get the tickets, pick out, in advance, the handful of games you want to plan to go to, and then immediately just put the rest on Stubhub with electronic delivery. You won’t have to touch them again other than to pull money out of your paypal account.

Then, if you make it to the post-season, you’re in position to leverage it still.

It’s a valid view, but not what we wanted. We talked about that, and decided against it. Here’s why.

First, given where our seats are, full season tickets is a significant chunk of change and an investment — if you include playoffs, it’s likely going to reach $8K for the two seats and can reach $10K if you include a deep run and parking. We’re three rows off the glass in the club, so the tickets aren’t inexpensive, but to us, were always worth it.

We talked with some of our seat neighbors (so they knew what was going on and could coordinate with their account manager to slide to the aisle next season), and the confirmed what we had thought — demand for these seats is pretty thing. There are a couple of singles in our section, and they don’t sell out 100% of the time (but being a single hurts).

If you take the full season, you’re on the hook for that money unless/until the tickets sell. As Derek noted, Stubhub is available and easy, but only if the tickets sell. We have, in fact, put a number of late season tickets up for sale, and so far, a bit more than half have sold. We expect the rest to sell as we get close to game night, but — it’s clear the price of the tickets limits the pool of buyers.

There are basically three ways to handle selling off chunks of a set of tickets:

  • Do it yourself, basically, privately sub-lease or syndicate out pieces. Laurie and I just aren’t particularly interested in managing this process, although we could pull in some people who might be interested. But it’s all up to the vagaries of who wants to commit each season, and what happens when the Sharks go into the inevitable down cycle? We just don’t see hanging onto the tickets as worth the work and energy in doing this.
  • The Ticketmaster “Sharks Approved” system, which is really painless, but… If you look at the fine print, you can’t sell tickets at below face value, by the time Ticketmaster and the Sharks get their fees, about 25% of the value disappears, and there’s no guarantee the tickets will sell (and if you look at how the program is structured, it’s pretty clearly designed to give priority to unsold Sharks inventory before your tickets will be re-sold, the way the pricing is set up pretty much guarantees that). It’s really easy and convenient, but — the margins charged to it are pretty high.
  • Stubhub  does a nice job of brokering a market in tickets. But again, there’s no guarantee they’ll sell. There’s no guarantee they’ll sell at face value, much less a premium. They also charge a 25% premium — 10% to the buyer, 15% to the seller. that implies we’d need to average sales of 15% above face to break even.

On top of that, since we have used on-site parking for a number of years, we’d have to eat parking on sales through Stubhub or Ticketmaster. to break even on that, we’d need to price another 5% or so above face value, or find some way to private-sale parking for those games we don’t use.

So by the time you get done with all of this, you’re putting $8K down up front, depending on being able to sell tickets at an average 20% above face value to break even on fees, and our history is that the market demand just isn’t that strong, even in the recent years when the Sharks have been competing well. When they hit a down cycle? If the silicon valley economy continues to struggle, or hits another air pocket?

And ultimately, that’s just more risk and hassle than we care to deal with, not when we can invest nothing up front and buy on the open market for the games we choose to go to; we’re talking to some of our seat neighbors so they’ll let us know about seats they might be selling off, and otherwise, we’d simply rather be buyers on Stubhub than sellers.

Now, if we were higher up in the arena at a lower price point, it might be different — demand is stronger at lower priced tickets, that changes the dynamics of the situation.

But really, the bottom line is this: we had a great 20 year run, and now we want to take a step back and go to fewer games, and we want the flexibility to decide how many and which games more or less on the fly; and after 20 years, we just aren’t that worried about giving up our priority and seats. It’s not worth the effort to us to maintain those (for what it’s worth, Laurie was one of the first 100 to put in a deposit when the Sharks franchise was announced, so after all of this time, our priority is probably somewhere in the top 25. but — that and $10 will buy a couple of lattes…)

It’s not about the Sharks, or the cost, or any of that — it’s more about shifting around where we want to spend our time, and give us flexibility to do other things. And some nights, that other thing is simply going to be watching the Sharks from the couch instead of the arena…