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Sabres to alter ticket pricing model, increase prices

The cost for a season ticket to watch the Buffalo Sabres in KeyBank Center will go up an average of 2.5% for the 2020-21 season.

The Sabres rescaled pricing at the arena from 15 to 30 price points to ensure that fans closer to the action pay more than those in the same section sitting farther away, the team confirmed to The Buffalo News. Ten of the price points will see a decrease from this season. That includes some seats in the 100 level.

The team said it increased prices by following the National Hockey League's standard analytical model, which examines level of demand, seniority of season ticket holders and team performance. The Sabres have eight home games remaining and are in jeopardy of their playoff drought reaching nine seasons.

A letter detailing the changes went out to season ticket holders Thursday.

"It’s important to start with the fact the whole building was rescaled and when we got advice from the National Hockey League and looked at markets across the league, best practices, we internally made the decision to use our analytic department to speak to us and give us the data back," Kevyn Adams, the Sabres' vice president of business administration, said. "That’s how we got here. I think the biggest part is now we have 30 different options for our fans and season ticket holders. We can find the right seat for everybody and we wanted to make sure we listened to our fans and gave them options. It’s consistent with what the rest of the league is doing and that’s an important part of this."

There is an increase in most areas on the side of the arena in which the Sabres shoot twice, as well as seats along the glass. Seats in the 200 level range from $106 to $129 per game, while the 100-level seats will cost between $53 and $95.50 per game. The 300 level will cost between $24 and $57.40 per game.

Additionally, season ticket holders will receive 2 percent back on SabreBucks cards, down from 2.5 percent this season.

The Sabres announced the change earlier than usual to provide ticket holders with enough time to discuss their options with a customer service representative. Fans are also receiving one more preseason and regular-season game in 2020-21 because the Sabres are not playing at a neutral site. The team faced the Pittsburgh Penguins at Penn State University this past preseason and lost a regular-season home game when it played the Tampa Bay Lightning in Stockholm, Sweden.

Season ticket holders received a 2.4% price increase this season, however, each section was priced the same, meaning someone sitting closer to the action could pay as much as someone farther away. Following NHL best practices, the Sabres examined demand internally and on the secondary market.

Next season's ticket packages include three preseason games and 41 regular-season games. The team did not raise ticket prices in 2018-19 and installed a 4% blanket increase the previous season.

"If our fans are telling us that the shoot twice end is extremely important to them, it doesn’t make sense that a person sitting in the same seat at the shoot once end pays the same," Adams said. "We’re giving our fans more options. It’s great we have 10 of our 30 price points going down. There are now opportunities, if our season ticket holders look where they’re sitting and they’re not happy with what comes back, there’s an opportunity to move somewhere in the building and assist them in that."

Sabres season tickets are among the cheapest in the NHL. According the 2019 NHL Fan Cost Index published by the independent Team Marketing Report, the Sabres' average season ticket price was fourth lowest in the league, behind the Florida Panthers, Arizona Coyotes and Colorado Avalanche.

The Sabres are also among the league leaders in seats purchased by season ticket holders. Entering games Wednesday, Buffalo ranked 20th in average attendance with almost 800 fewer tickets sold per game than last season.

Despite having three sellouts, the Sabres finished last season with an average home attendance of 17,908, the franchise's lowest mark since it drew 16,886 per game during the 2005-06 season.

In addition to sending season ticket renewals out earlier, the Sabres are in the process of creating a fan advisory panel similar to the one used by the Bills. The team will ask season ticket holders for feedback on the game day experience and will roll out changes next season when the Sabres will switch to royal blue jerseys.

The Sabres also learned during the franchise's celebration of its 50th anniversary that theme nights resonate with fans.

"We’re evaluating the whole fan experience," Adams said. "From the time our fans step out of the car until they get back in the car, we have to provide them with the best possible experience and we have to, in my opinion, listen. What do the fans like. What do they want? This is going to be an offseason where we have a ton of work in front of us and it goes back to us making sure we’re engaged with our fans and hearing what they’re telling us."

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