Hosting fee causing high Memorial Cup ticket prices, low attendance

The organizing committee chair for the 100th Memorial Cup says that a high fee to host the tournament has caused increased ticket prices and impacted attendance.

The tournament still hasn't sold out a game

Empty seats have been the norm to this point of the 100th Memorial Cup in Regina. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press)

The organizing committee chair for the 100th Memorial Cup says that a high fee to host the tournament has caused increased ticket prices and impacted attendance.

Shaun Semple said that the Regina Pats, a team in which he is a co-owner, had to pay $3.65 million to host the Canadian major junior championship.

He said that ticket prices start at $75 per game and that the Pats owners expect to lose upwards to $2 million between the tournament and opening ceremony, which featured a performance by The Eagles at Mosaic Stadium.

This year's Memorial Cup has yet to sell out through the first four games at Brandt Centre, which has a capacity of 6,484, entering Tuesday's night's matchup between the Acadie-Bathurst Titan and Hamilton Bulldogs.

Attendance not a surprise

Semple added that ticket sales for the tournament are around expected so far.

He said the ownership group wanted to bring the event to Regina in the team's 100th year ever since the five businessmen purchased the franchise in 2014.

"We planned to lose money when we brought it in because we knew we couldn't charge enough based on the number of seats we had and the fees we had to pay in order for us to break even," Semple said Tuesday.

Regina's opener against the Ontario Hockey League's Bulldogs had an attendance of 5,678 — the lowest of the tournament's first four games.

Carley Olfert is a billet mom for Swift Current Broncos players Colby Sissons and Tyler Steenbergen. She said that she spent $197 for three top row tickets to Saturday's Swift Current opener against the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League's Titan.

That game had an announced attendance of 6,237 — the highest number to date at the Memorial Cup.

"Are tickets overpriced? Absolutely," Olfert said. "Would we miss it for the world? Absolutely not. You got to pay for these experiences.

"We have to come and support them when it's two hours down the road. How could you miss this? You can't."

Price comparisons

Semple said that organizers compared prices against last year's tournament in Windsor, Ont., and the 2016 event in Red Deer, Alta. The Brier, which Brandt Centre also hosted in March, was looked at as well.

"We hope people will understand that there is a limit of how much that investment is," Semple said. "But at the end of the day, we wanted this to be special, we wanted to have one heck of an opening ceremony."

Tournament ticket packages for Pats season ticket holders ranged upwards to $695. The Halifax Mooseheads, who are hosting next year's tournament, have already sent their season ticket holders an email saying that tournament passes will be $320.

A spokesman with the Mooseheads declined a request for comment, saying that the team wants the focus to be on this year's tournament.

Hosting fee is a problem

Semple said that Halifax is able to afford selling its tickets at a significantly lower price due to the fact that they're paying less than half the hosting fee than Regina and have twice as many seats at Scotiabank Centre.

He said that if he had more seats at Brandt Centre that he could charge less.

"The difference was that they (Halifax) went ahead and made a conscious decision bidding for next year to prescribe the fee," Semple said.

Semple, who is also the president of Brandt Industries Inc., said that the hometown Pats getting knocked out in the first round of the Western Hockey League playoffs made it tougher to build excitement early in the tournament.

"But I think you'll see as the tournament goes on we're still going to be in that 90 to 95 per cent sell-out range for the whole event," he said.


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