Phoenix Coyotes fans: putting money where their mouth is

Christian Petersen

New season, new owners and new fees. How are the fans reacting to the additional charges?

It's a tough proposition to get consumers to pay for something that was once free. To get them to do it with pride, even tougher. But that's exactly what the new owners of the Phoenix Coyotes did.

For years, Coyotes fans attended games with no obligation to pay for parking, a rare occurrence in professional sports. Now, a team that already struggles with attendance is asking fans to pay more out of pocket on game days.
It's a risky move for a team whose top priority is to consistently bring more fans into the arena, but a move the new ownership group believes will be successful.

"Our ownership group has done a tremendous amount of research on parking," said Rich Nairn, Coyotes vice president of communications. "The Coyotes were the last team in the NHL and the last team in professional sports to charge for parking...we don't anticipate any negative affect on attendance."

Their theory was put to the test when Phoenix played its home opener on Thursday night against the New York Rangers. It passed with flying colors.

The game was a sell-out with 17,125 fans in attendance, exactly 100 percent capacity. Parking lots were full and fans in attendance had an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the new fees.

"$10-$15 is a very small price to pay to have the team stay in town," Brad Denny said.

One season ticket holder went as far as saying he "welcomed the fees."

During a months-long lease battle between IceArizona and Glendale, the public heard parking fees were essential to the city and the team.

A conditional out-clause option also became public knowledge during this time. If the team were to lose $50 million in its first five years, IceArizona can elect to opt-out of its 15-year lease deal with Glendale. Numerous fans felt paying parking fees was a way of doing their part to help the team stay in Arizona.

"The fees were annoying, but if the alternative is (the team) not being here, I'll pay for parking every day," Justin Emerson said.

Not all fans embraced the change.

"It was pricey and we had quite a walk," Courtney Sasser said. "I have a handicap placard but I did not want to pay $25 (to park in front of the stadium)."

Parking prices range from $10-$25 depending on when the pass is bought and the lot location. Those prices are comparable to the cost of parking at an Arizona Diamondbacks or Phoenix Suns game.

Time will tell if the fans continue to be magnanimous about the additional cost of attending Coyotes games and whether it will adversely affect attendance.

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