If you can't fill 'em, cover 'em up with ads. That's the philosophy the Panthers are subscribing to at the BankAtlantic Center, and for once, fans can react with something other than stabby anger to one of the beleaguered franchise's decisions.
About 2,000 seats in the upper bowl -- the top six rows in the corners and end zones -- will be covered by tarps next season, effectively reducing capacity at most (read: non-popular) hockey games from 19,250 to 17,040.
“Our building is just too big,'' team president Michael Yormark told the Miami Herald, noting the Panthers play in the 7th-largest arena in the NHL, yet rank 25th in attendance with an announced average of 15,146. (His team is also just too bad, but whatever.)
"We think this is the right decision. Go back to the old Miami Arena [situation]. What made it so exciting? It was tight, fans were right on top of the action. We played at 99 percent capacity. We think we can go back to that.''
Short of being good again, moving the cheap seats closer and providing a more intimate game experience [cue Barry White] is probably the next best thing. In other words, no more feeling like needles in a giant, blinking haystack.
Or at least a little less of it.
But despite successes with similar capacity-limiting plans by the 'Canes, Heat, and Marlins, a quick poll over at Litter Box Cats showed considerable anti-tarp feeling, presumably because "It's a Tarp" or on account of being subjected to even more ads inside the arena, which already feels at times like a "Take on Me"-styled trip to the innards of a neon Auto Trader.
But now it can feel like a "Take on Me"-styled trip to the innards of a neon Auto Trader during hurricane season, which is considerably more awesome -- and the team says pairing the shrinkage with a new "airline pricing" ticketing structure will solve many of fans' long-term complaints about both surcharges and the high numbers of giveaway tickets each season.
The new variable pricing will increase the cost of single-game tickets based on demand. For home crowds, buying early will allow Cats fans to secure seats against the likes of the Rangers, Penguins, and Canadiens without paying a premium amount, leaving visiting fans to bear the brunt of the price increase as sales go up. And season ticket-holders won't continue to be offended while the team scrambles to fill empty seats with freebies.
So, to recap: better party atmosphere, increased intimacy, and gouging New Yorkers for the team's few revenue-making games. Sounds win-win to us, or as much win as possible short of covering Yormark himself up in one of thoses tarps.