Will Arena Passes Catch On?

Two NBA teams, one in NHL start monthly subscriptions that come with no seat

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: December 5, 2018

Fans of the NBA's Golden State Warriors can buy an In The Building Pass that will get them inside Oracle Arena, but they'll watch the game on a TV. (Getty Images)

Three NBA or NHL teams are busy evaluating monthly subscription products they introduced this season that give fans access to their arenas for every home game. Some passes come with a direct view of the action, but none include a seat in the arena bowl.

The Golden State Warriors of the NBA started the trend, offering a $100 monthly subscription for fans to get into Oakland’s Oracle Arena for every regular-season home game. The subscription, called the In The Building Pass, gives fans entry to the arena and provides viewing access via televisions on the club level. Golden State fans will also have the chance for seat upgrades the day of the game.

“We continue to sell standing-room only seating options, but with the interest in attending a Warriors game at an all-time high and this product being created to allow more fans an opportunity to experience the excitement inside Oracle Arena, the most spacious area for an additional 200 fans to enjoy the game from TVs was in our Club 200 locations,” said John Beaven, senior vice president of ticket sales and services for the Warriors.

The Warriors, who have won three of the last four NBA championships, are playing their last season in Oracle Arena before moving to Chase Center in San Francisco next year.

On the heels of the Golden State announcement, the Portland Trail Blazers of the NBA introduced a $60-a-month Blazers Game Plan pass to the Moda Center and the Chicago Blackhawks of the NHL came up with an $88-a-month Blackhawks Pass for the United Center. Both the Blazers and Blackhawks offer standing-room-only views inside the bowl as part of their passes.

Subscription deals began getting a foothold in Major League Baseball in recent years, often coming with a seat but in a different location depending on the game, and have been seen in other sports as well.

All three teams began offering the passes after the regular season started, so December signifies the first full month of access for the teams. Each has limited the number of passes available. In Golden State, even with 44,000 fans on the season-ticket waiting list, that number is 200. “The response thus far has been very positive and we are pleased with the results,” said Beaven, who would not reveal specifics.

The Warriors allow one person to buy up to four passes on a recurring monthly subscription. Fans can opt out of the subscription at any point and can transfer the pass via email.

The Golden State model differs slightly from what Portland offers. While the Blazers Game Plan gives fans a standing-room-only pass in the seating bowl for all regular-season home game and one fan can purchase up to four passes, fans can share only the three additional passes and can’t resell or transfer the personal ticket. Portland does not allow any opt-out of the monthly subscription once purchased.

The Blazers will also offer upgrades into a seat location, with costs varying based on the game.

“It was an opportunity to provide a new product targeted to an audience adept at using technology and at a pricing model that is becoming more commonplace,” said Todd Ricksger, Portland’s senior director of season ticket sales and services. “It’s also segmented to an audience that wants to take advantage of access to Trail Blazers games but can’t commit to every single game.”

When designing the ticket offering — Ricksger said the team is still receiving feedback early in the process from fans and using that to “create a better product” — the Blazers wanted to provide fans with an option to come to games with a low monthly fee that doesn’t undercut the value and ownership that comes with being a season-ticket holder.

Like the Warriors, the Blazers would not give the number of passes that have been sold.

The Blackhawks limit fans to two passes per account for the standing-room-only views behind the last row of seats on the upper level. Resale of the tickets is not allowed. Chicago does allow fans to cancel the recurring monthly charges. The team did not reply to a request for comment.

For the Warriors, in their 47th year at Oracle Arena before moving across the bay to San Francisco and Chase Center, the opportunity to try out a new product before moving was enticing.

“We haven’t made a decision yet on if we will incorporate this into Chase Center, but Oracle Arena is a great opportunity for us to test a variety of potential opportunities at Chase Center,” Beaven said, “with this product being one of them.”

  • by Tim Newcomb
  • Published: December 5, 2018