Much has been made about how the forthcoming renovations to Madison Square Garden will raise ticket prices, even in those seats not immediately impacted by the renovation. As a result, many fans have been pointing the finger at the Dolan’s for raising ticket prices in order to pay for his renovation, screwing over the casual fan in the process. While there are many things Dolan should be castigated for (Isiah Thomas, his blues band,) in this case he is making an impersonal decision to respond to demand for access to sporting events.
Ranger fans have been some of the most loyal in sports, almost to a fault. Ever since 1992-93, over 18,000 fans per game have made their way to the Garden. Not only is demand high for a limited number of tickets, but there exists a new market for exclusive seating areas with upscale lounges and dining areas. Think the Delta and Champions clubs at Citi Field and the Legends boxes at Yankee Stadium. Exempting the luxury suites hanging from the ceiling, fans at the Garden are not privy to the modern amenities found at other stadiums both around the league and the metropolitan area. Sitting in the 300 level at United Center, I have easier access to a wider range of dining options and a bar than in the Club Seats at the Garden. If Madison Square Garden is not rebuilt, adding these amenities, then the Dolans would be leaving millions of dollars on the table. Not only would that be irresponsible form a business standpoint, it could jeopardize the ability of the Rangers to field competitive teams in the face of increasing competition for sporting dollars. While the Rangers will always be able to spend to the cap, imagine if the Dolans were unwilling or unable to eat Wade Redden’s whale of a contract while he spends his time in Connecticut?
While we all love to lob chants of "Kansas City" at the Fishsticks faithful, we really should be chanting "Brooklyn." The Islanders relocating closer to the center of the universe would increase the supply of hockey tickets in the immediate vicinity of the Garden, and depress demand for Rangers tickets amongst marginal fans and corporations. The Nets pending relocation will do this to an extent.
If what Ranger fans really want is a championship team, regardless of the price of admission, then it behooves them to have the Islanders as close as possible. While, as I previously pointed out, Ranger fans are notoriously faithful, the corporate clients are marginal fans that the renovated Garden is appealing to are much more likely to be bandwagon fans, following whatever New York team happens to be winning. With the Islanders only a 10 minute subway ride from the Financial District and 20 minutes from Midtown, the Dolans will be forced to put a competitive team on both the ice and the floor if they wish to keep their profits from fleeing to Brooklyn.
I understand that fans need someone tangible to blame and point their finger at as they are increasingly unable to afford to go to as many games as they’d like to. The real culprit here is the economic reality that a lot of people want to go to games, and the changing perception corporate ticket buyers have about what the experience at a sporting event should be. While I sympathize with fans who can’t make it to as many games as they’d like to, blaming the Dolans for this undermines real criticism of the management of this team.