Every year, Team Marketing Report releases a Fan Cost Index. This metric seeks to standardize and compare the cost of a family of four to attend a given game in a given sport.
The Dallas Stars provide some of the best values when it comes to attending a NHL game:
Overall, it costs about 18% less to attend a NHL game in Dallas when compared to the league average. If you consider the cost of attending, say, a New York Rangers or Toronto Maple Leafs game in those respective markets, it’s nearly 44% cheaper to attend a game in Dallas.
Teams like the Leafs, Rangers, Chicago Blackhawks, and Boston Bruins have a good portion of their seats sold on a seasonal basis — with notoriously long wait lists. Take, for instance, this tidbit back in 2016 about Maple Leafs season tickets:
“Toronto’s Air Canada Centre has 18,900 seats available for Leafs games, and 15,500 of them belong to season ticket holders. In March, 99.5 per cent of those tickets were renewed — meaning just 77 season tickets became available for sale to the 10,000 people currently on the wait list. At that rate, and assuming each person wants at least two tickets, it will take more than 250 years to clear the existing list.”
That often leaves fans at the mercy of the secondary ticket market to attend games. As most fans know, secondary ticket pricing can be much more expensive than the face value of tickets. Unlike the NBA, the NHL does not require a certain amount of affordable tickets be made available for each game.
For an upcoming Monday night game in Toronto against the Florida Panthers, a pair of lower bowl tickets behind the goal would you set you back about $337 per ticket, or $674 total, on the resale market. Single seats available in that section by the team are only about $97 at face value, but you and the person you’re going with might be rows and sections apart for the entirety of the game if you want to try to get in the building for relatively cheap.
Compare that to a Thursday night matchup in Dallas versus the Florida Panthers.
In a very similar location (behind the net, almost the exact same distance from the ice in the lower bowl), tickets would set a fan back $90 each, or $180 total, on the resale market. That happens to match the exact face value of the seats in that area sold by the team, and there are pairs available together from the team — unlike in Toronto. That $490 difference in just ticket price alone is almost a full round-trip flight between Dallas and Toronto. And if you’re going to spend that much, why not get a nice break from the biting cold winter weather with a trip down south to see hockey in a much warmer climate? That all of a sudden becomes very appealing indeed.
Not to mention, Dallas has one of the cheapest premium experiences in the league. That’s likely because a premium experience, defined as an added benefit you wouldn’t get otherwise, is available to ticket buyers in certain sections of the lower bowl as well as the entirety of the platinum level at the AAC. Access to the upscale dining options on that level as well as premium bar offerings are what defines a premium experience for ticket buyers with platinum level privileges. It’s hard to charge a lot for those seats when there is a large number of tickets compared to some other buildings that lack a platinum level-type experience and offer smaller inventories of premium experiences in various locations throughout the arena.
Food & Beverage
There’s one spot where Dallas does not do well in the food and beverage category: beer costs. With so many restaurants popping up in Victory Park right outside the AAC, it’s not surprising that the Stars have relatively lower food costs compared to the rest of the league. Though, hot dogs are the cheapest food option at most arenas, and it’s not likely that everyone in a family of four would go for that option unless they weren’t given a choice.
Where Dallas does not do well is the cost of a beer. In order to standardize the beer costs, I applied a per-ounce cost to the size of a standard pint (16 oz). Some arenas, such as T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, offer their cheapest beers in a 20 oz size while the cheapest beer for the Stars is in a 12 oz size. Doing this allows us to truly assess which fans are getting hit the most to pair beer with hockey.
The New Jersey Devils have the highest beer cost by a wide margin: $14.08 for a 16 oz beer, with the next highest beer cost set at $12.00 for the same size (Arizona Coyotes, Anaheim Ducks, and Carolina Hurricanes). In the league, 12 of 31 teams have beer costs in the double digits, with the lowest being $6.40 courtesy of the Winnipeg Jets. That’s a nice gesture for fans given how cold the hockey season can get up there — beer has been known to warm a person up from time to time.
Dallas doesn’t look all that great in terms of merchandise, where a ballcap is a proxy for fan gear at the arena. But that’s a little misleading, thanks to the 14 teams that list their ballcap price at $23.99 versus the $24.00 listed for Dallas. In other words, they’re actually pretty close to on par with the league in terms of merchandising. A lot of that is likely a result of the fact that the league has deals with brands like Fanatics to manufacture their products and they’re sold throughout the league at more standardized prices.
Stars fans do get lucky in terms of parking costs. A lot of that is the fact that there is relatively cheap lots located within a half-mile of the arena. The more expensive parking prices - Boston Bruins, New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks, for example - have arenas generally amidst heavily developed downtown areas with public transportation access, where fans wouldn’t have to park their own cars and those that do will have to fight for limited parking spots available within close proximity.
Up until recent years, most of the area immediately adjacent to the American Airlines Center were surface parking lots. As development continues to grow the area around the hockey mecca in Big D, fans are having to park further out to find low cost options. However, they do still exist.
Increases Over Time
When Tom Gaglardi purchased the Dallas Stars back in 2011, the team was in the middle of bankruptcy that had gutted the team, both on and off the ice. They were a cap floor team that often couldn’t attract top free agents because they couldn’t afford to pay them. As a result, the team didn’t have the talent to make the playoffs, with five straight seasons spent in no-man’s land in the standings: just competitive enough, but not bad enough to luck into some high draft picks either.
In 2011, the Fan Cost Index was $258.35.
Fast forward to the eighth season under Gaglardi ownership (the seventh full season, if we’re being specific.) The Fan Cost Index is now $349.34, an overall increase of 35% and a compound annual growth rate of 3.41%.
What have the fans gotten with that increase?
A team that is now spending near the salary cap ceiling. Three playoff appearances in eight seasons prior to this one, two of which went to the second round. Major trades for league stars like Tyler Seguin. Premier free agent signings such as Joe Pavelski. Two premier league events — the NHL draft and the Winter Classic in their own back yard.
What fans have really gotten is relevance in the league again. And all at a relatively good value, comparatively.