The First Shoe?

Last week, the Flyers sent out season ticket packages for the 2008-09 season. There was a price increase, not that unusual, although with a salary cap and a still not quite competitive team, while the economy moves into recession, it may be a harder sell than they expect.

But the big surprise, and a very unpleasant one, was that they are moving the entire first row of fans, many of whom have had those seats since the beginning of Flyers history, to create a premium seating row with a much higher price than the lower bowl and built in (without a choice offered) concession value.

There is a misconception that the lower bowl at the Wachovia Center is all corporate. But that’s far from true. There are plenty of fans, many of them long-time supporters of the team, who still occupy the lower seats. No they aren’t there every night. But there are plenty of rotations–groups of friends and family who share the tickets 3 or 4 or 5 ways.

Tonight, at the game, many fans were taking trips down to row one to talk to the affected season ticket holders. Others were stopping the front row folks as they came up the aisles to commiserate.

The Flyers made a mistake here. In reaching for the limited (really, this isn’t a lot of seats and it isn’t in the scheme of things a lot of money) additional revenue, they’ve broken faith with the faithful. And now the rest of the season ticket holders, seeing what can happen to the most loyal and committed among them, are wondering when the other shoe will drop.

Because it will, won’t it? Maybe not next year, or the one after that. But eventually, not far down the road, the suits in the suites will decide it’s time to turn the whole area between the bluelines into club seats. Then the area between the goal line. And as they push people who know and love the game further and further from the action the building will become more and more soulless–to match the organization.

The Flyers have always had the reputation of being sensitive to the core of their fan base, the season ticket holders. I can only imagine the suits did this while walking through the concourse stepping over the cold dead bodies of their fine marketing and public relations team, who surely would know better than to propose such a disturbing change.

Season ticket holders in the lower bowl had better enjoy the view while they have it. Because it is going to be taken away. The eventuality has gone from unimaginable to dreaded in the action against one row.

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