At a Nashville Predators game in early December, Greg Atwood arrived at his seat just like he normally does.
“I typically get there right at faceoff. I walked in when it was dark and when they turned the lights on it was pretty shocking just how much,” said Atwood. “I mean it was a majority red.” That red was a sea of Chicago Blackhawks fans in t-shirts and sweaters supporting their team. Thousands of fans chanted “Let’s Go Hawks”
As a reliable Predators fan, Atwood has been coming to games for 14 years and says he actually doesn’t mind seeing out-of-towners. He says one or two thousand opposing fans are okay, but when they fill up half of the arena, that’s where he draws the line.
The Blackhawks won that night 3-1. It was a rare home defeat for the Predators and team president Sean Henry says the complaints came flying in from fans and players.
“I probably got, I don’t know, 50-75 e-mails; 10-12 phone calls,” said Henry. “People are saying ‘I don’t know if I want to come to the game anymore.”
So now, the team is outlining steps to maximize the Predators gold and navy blue in the stands. The team says it’s considering a mandate that season ticket holders clear it with them before re-selling their tickets. The team is also offering to buy back tickets to certain games at 10 percent above face value.
“The first opportunity and last opportunity to buy Predators tickets should stay right here in our greater market,” said Henry.
Unlike goods that can be bought and re-sold, many professional teams consider their tickets non-transferable licenses.
The New England Patriots took the online site StubHub to court a few years back over the re-sale of tickets. And just last year, the Seattle Seahawks tried to ban anyone with a California zip code from buying a ticket to the NFC championship game, in what some say was an effort to keep San Francisco 49ers fans out.
If the Predators end up doing something similar, not only would that keep out-of-town fans away from the arena, it would likely keep them out of Nashville altogether, meaning downtown hotels might lose out.
John Fleming is manager of the Renaissance Nashville.
“I had two reactions. One, as a fan, and I said ‘absolutely right’, the best thing we can do is protect our home ice and go for it,” said Fleming.
But as someone running a hotel?
“We’ll lose some business obviously if we do limit that,” said Henry. “It means we’ll just have to find other business”
Season ticket holders are conflicted too. Greg Atwood may not like half the arena filled with rival fans, but he also doesn’t want the team to go overboard with new rules.
“I spent a lot of money on these tickets and when I buy these tickets they’re mine to determine what I do with them,” said Atwood.
The Predators say they’re most concerned with building a championship franchise and a regional fan base that will last for generations. They say keeping home-ice advantage is a key to moving in that direction.
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