I discussed this a little bit last night in the chat, but I wanted to let the board know as a whole that the Devils created a Season Ticket Holder "Fan Council". They sent an email out a couple months ago asking for STH that were interested to let them know. I did and was selected. They claimed that they were selective on this.
The first monthly meeting was before last night's game. There were about 10 of us there. All were long time STH and all but one or two were club seat holders. To be clear, this had nothing to do with the team or product on the ice. They weren't asking for input into who Lou should trade for. This was all about how they could do better things for STH, specifically business owners (which this meeting was comprised of - all but one). They also wanted feedback on the changes that have come this year throughout the arena.
We met with the three top fan representatives that report directly to Hugh and Scott (President and CEO) in the "private dining room" which is a room off the dining room and we met from 5:30 - 6:45. As an aside, there are historical photos in the room and one of Marty, Neidermayer, and Carol Neidermayer with the cup which made me cringe.
The first half of the meeting was discussion of what they could do for businesses. They talked about creating a business directory of STH and having industry specific meetings before each game (retail one night, professional services another night, legal another night, etc). They indicated they'd also do networking dinners hosted by the Devils and have some players there (alumni or current). Another suggestion which was well received was allowing businesses to use the Devils conference room in the arena on "dark days" (when the arena isn't hosting an event) for free and getting building tours. The discussion kept coming back to, and then focused on the club seats (Fire and Ice Lounges) which were originally targeted to business owners and people interested in entertaining.
For those that don't know, the Fire and Ice Lounges were conceived with the idea that all you can eat food with seating areas and a more exclusive section would attract business owners. Up until this year, that was the way that they were. They had "fan fare" which was usual hamburgers, hot dogs, pizza, chicken fingers and fries. But they also had sushi, carving station, full salad and soup bar, pasta bar (until last year), and two hot food buffet stations. This was all included in the price of the ticket. Many club STH locked into 5, 7 and 10 year contracts at 1st year fixed prices for this. By changing this year, the Devils actually breached all those contracts. They made STH sign new agreements that altered the agreement and made price concessions or loaded food value on tickets. They also completely changed the food in the lounges. Gone are any "fan fare". Now they have high end sandwiches, flat bread pizzas, sushi, and salads. Every dish is anywhere from $9.00 - $16.00. Needless to say, this has been met with extreme negative opinion from just about everyone.
So why did the Devils change? It was made clear (as if it wasn't obvious) that no matter what they said about improving food choices, going from Aramark to Legends services, better presentation, etc, it was 100% financial in motivation. The Devils were making no money on the Fire and Ice Lounge all you can eat setup. And in many games, they lost money. The Devils have the largest "Club" Section in the NHL. The usual club section has about 1500 seats. The Devils have 2700. The guys we were talking to (who joined in June and came from Atlanta and LA respectively) said that the arena construction with the lounges and what they were trying to do was just done so terribly. For the lounges to be successful in an all you can eat situation, every single seat would have to be sold for every game and it still wouldn't be as profitable as what they have now. So that's why they said that "all you can eat" will likely never come back. But with that, they also expect to lose 25% of STH that take the full club package (loaded tickets). They don't expect to lose them as STH - just that they won't pay the highest price. My suggestion - and one that I think they might go with, is that the lounges should go back to free "fan-fare" and pay for higher end food. This would add value back and make it attractive for STH to bring guests and not have to have them reach into their pocket.
Other topics discussed:
Food Changes around the arena: Everyone there was very down on the new food. I disagreed as I think the new food choices have been pretty good as far as arena food goes.
Communications with STH and Fans: All agreed this needs to be better (including Devils reps). To many times special events are being given 72 hour notice and done at inconvenient times.
In Arena Entertainment: Music is too loud - Devils have heard it. I actually noticed it being not as loud last night.
7:30 start time instead of 7:00 - this is MSG plain and simple. The trains have nothing to do with it. MSG wants 7:00. It's 7:00
Long time STH don't feel much more special than new STH and that irks them.
Everyone agreed that we didn't care if they discounted tickets to some if we were paying more as long as the building was full. It was acknowledged that "keeping value" for STH was pretty much bullsh!t and they just didn't want to give tickets away. They'd rather have 13k paying customers than 12k paying customers and 3k heavily discounted/free tickets.
And of course, "You Suck." and not announcing the opposing starting lineups so fans can't chant "Suck" after each player is announced. This was an older contingent in this crew and me (38). Everyone there wanted RR 2 back (besides me) and wanted intros brought back. The feeling was that the Devils were skewing too heavily towards making it a family friendly enviornment and didn't care about the long time STH (of which everyone there was). They all thought the 3D intro was useless (i disagreed). That being said, they all acknowledged that we have a lot of moron fans but also agreed that every fanbase does. I brought up that YS chants when the devils are losing 4-0 to the rangers and score a late 3rd period goal to make it 4-1 and chant YS we look like fvcking idiots. One guy came back with "tradition" and "it's a hockey game."
We will have a monthly meeting (at least that's what they told us). We can also email our contacts anytime and they have direct access to Hugh and Scott and speak to them daily. So I'm happy to forward any thoughts anyone has.