One of our long time friends sent this to us after the games this weekend. He sent this letter to the Penguins, and we thought it captured everything that frustrates a lot of us.
It is after readmore..
AN OPEN LETTER TO THE PENGUINS MANAGEMENT
I just got home from today’s Penguin win over Columbus, a day after the huge win over Tampa Bay the afternoon before, and I realized something I never thought I would ever admit. For the first time in over a decade, I wondered if my season tickets were worth the aggrivation. Let me explain.
I have been a Pens season ticket holder since 2000, when I was a law school student. Over the years I migrated from a half-season to afull-season, from $28 per seat tickets to Mellon Arena to $67 per seat tickets at Consol Energy Center.
Let me first say, I have been a diehard Penguins fan for most of my life. Through the highs of Lemieux, Jagr, Crosby and Malkin to the long winters of Konstantin Koltsov, Kip Miller, Josef Melichar and Milan Kraft, I’ve been there through it all. In fact, I took more pride in being a fan when the on-ice product was questionable; not only was there shared misery among the truest of true fans, but the Penguin front office always made me feel truly valued. One year, I received an unexpected $100 gift certification to Penstation in the mail from the team, just to thank me for being a partial season ticket holder. I was blown away.
As the finances of the NHL and the deteriorating condition of Mellon Arena made the games somewhat wanting, we were promised things would get better on both fronts, a promise we never doubted the Penguins management was working towards. But with their work largely complete, I cannot help but wonder if we’re better off in terms of the arena and fan experience.
Like I said, my tickets have gone up from $28 per seat per game to $67 per seat per game, for a view that is basically the same (and Ihave two seats). I am a member of the demographic the Penguins cherish- theyoung professional under 35 years old. Despite a mortgage, student loans, car payments, credit cards and everything else, I willingly shell out $6,000 per season for tickets (not counting the playoffs), plus plenty more in food, drinks and merchandise. It’s easy to conclude I spend about 10% of my annual income on my Penguins experience, which I never questioned because I enjoyed the games so much. Maybe I’m in the minority here, but I am thoroughly unimpressed with the experience of games at Consol Energy Center.
First and foremost, the arena was clearly designed to cater to corporate interests, with all of the bells and whistles on the first level and in the boxes. I’ve sat in some of the boxes, and I’ve even sat in Suite 66, and there’s just no comparison, which is fine. I don’t need bells and whistles to enjoy a game. But just getting around the upper level is inexplicably difficult for a new arena, and I really have to wonder what the designers were thinking.
The crowd is immovable, mainly because the corridors are way too narrow for any reasonable amount of foot traffic. Getting anywhere, especially if you’re trying to carry food or a beer, is nearly impossible. The lines for the bathrooms are ridiculous for a new arena, and the consistent lack of thought for traffic flow is painfully obvious. Navigating the crush of people leaving after a game is like running the gauntlet, with arena ushersstanding in the corridor yelling at people that the easiest way out isn’t the exit clearly designed to attract the most attention. It’s an embarrassing cluster you-know-what.
Speaking of the ushers, it’s feast or famine with them. My seats are in the front row of the upper bowl, and I’ve had more problems there this season than I had in a decade at Mellon Arena. I’ve gotten into verbal altercations with fans that parked themselves in my seats and refused to move even after I show them my season tickets. I’ve had random fans (grown adults in suits) sit on the steps in the front row for periods at a time, creating their own seats while blocking everyone around them. When I look for an usher, all the way at the top of the section, getting their attention is impossible ifthey’re even around.
Today, it took me the full intermission to get a sandwich and a drink; I returned to my section about 30 seconds into the period. Right as I walked up, there was a whistle, so I started to head down to my seat. I was stopped by the usher, who didn’t think I could make it in time, so she made me wait for several minutes until the next whistle. While I stood there, fans in seats closer to the back were allowed to go while play went on; and in the process, I got bumped into and had a drink spill on the new jersey I bought a few days earlier. No apologies, nothing.
Another problem that drives me nuts is the lack of Wi-Fi availability in the arena. Mellon Arena had Wi-Fi, so it’s not a technical issue, and the Pens bragged all over the place about how high-tech Consol Energy Center would be. This is a problem because anyone who has been to a game knows that getting a signal is almost impossible at times. I’d like to be able to post a picture from the game to Facebook or Twitter (which would also be good PR for the team), but I can’t because my iPhone doesn’t work in there. But more importantly, as a member of the young professional demographic the Penguinsclaim to cherish, I need to have access to my email for work just about all the time, and the spotty reception has created serious problems for me. There’s just no excuse for failing to provide customer service to the standards of a local Starbucks in regards to Wi-Fi.
More often than not, it all leads to an in-game experience that has me tired, aggravated and annoyed before I even sit down. Add in the insanely loud music, which makes conversation almost impossible, and the only conclusion I can come to is that I now go to Penguin games in spite of Consol Energy Center, not because of it, and I do blame the Penguins management for that problem, and more importantly, for their clear lack of concern for correcting any of these issues.
This isn’t random bitching and moaning by some yuppie, even though some will likely perceive it as such. From talking with many other fans, I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. But I have always justified the expense of going to the games by saying it was my one true indulgence, a real relaxation. Now, despite the exceptional product being put on the ice, I find myself more agitated than relaxed as I am propelled with the mob leaving the arena. The price of the fan experience has gone up over 200% since 2009, but I feel like the value has gone down exponentially. Worse yet, I feel like the Penguins management, the ones who valued me when they needed me to stand by their side during the darkest days of the franchise, has basically abandoned me.
I hope the Penguins address some of these problems before fans like me decide it’s way easier to stay home and watch the games, because there will be a day when the on-ice product deteriorates and they ask for our faith while they rebuild. I might be willing to tolerate the expensive yet frustrating game experience to see Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, but don’t ask me to put up with it to watch the next Josef Melichar someday.
We’ve been through a lot together, good times and bad. Please help me justify spending my sports entertainment dollars on this team again. I want my experience of being a Pens fan back.
-A Loyal Fan