That's the ticket!

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:30 AM ET

Demonstrating the sort of agility typically reserved for their wide receivers, the Calgary Stampeders' front office has found a way to maximize ticket revenue without upsetting the team's loyal fan base.

For the first time in Calgary, a pro sports team will adopt a ticket structure that charges fans a 22% premium on the price of some game-day tickets for the two most popular games.

Those hoping to buy single-game tickets to either the Aug. 5 game against Saskatchewan or the Labour Day tilt against Edmonton will find themselves staring at what amounts to a surcharge of sorts for hand-picking the club's two automatic sellouts.

The only tickets affected by the premium are whites (between the goal -line and the 15-yard line), which will jump $8 to $35 at the ticket window for those two games.

"If you buy season tickets, you don't pay any more on those two games," stresses Stamps owner Ted Hellard of a move done to both reward season-ticket holders and encourage others to pay for a whole season instead of just a pair of games.

"We're saying: 'If you're only going to cherry-pick those games, you'll pay more.' It's done in a lot of pro sports. It doesn't happen in hockey much but when you've got a lot of game-day sales and games with more demand, it makes sense."

Many of the 7,500 white seats are unaffected as they are sold as season tickets, which is what the program is aimed at increasing, according to Lee Genier, the team's business development v.p.

"We sell white season tickets for $129, so the idea is that if you buy tickets to both those games for $70, you might as well fork out an extra $60 and get tickets to all 10 games," said Genier. "We give everyone an option."

Indeed, they do, which is why no fan has any right to suggest the new premium pricing plan is price gouging.

The Stamps have offset the move by expanding the Safeway zone by almost 700 seats (to 2,000), allowing fans to buy tickets for $14.99 for any game. Sport Chek also sells tickets for $15 plus GST.

The club has also introduced a family zone of 500 seats, allowing a parent and child to see every game for $199. Hellard points out there is no GST or stadium fee for those.

"We've still set aside enough for families that don't have a lot of money," said Hellard, who opted not to charge premium prices for the home opener against Edmonton.

"We want to cater to anyone and, if you want to walk up on game day, we can get you in for $15," added Genier.

"A family of four can sit in the Safeway section for less than $60."

Perhaps the most ingenious move made by the club's ticket office is to charge season-ticket holders for a ticket to a home playoff game instead of begging and chasing them to buck up again when the snow flies in November and they contemplate watching it from the comfort of their homes.

Too often the stands have been empty for the biggest home date of the year. If the Stamps don't host a game, the team will refund your money or use it as a credit for the following season's tickets.

"Any interest we generate from those funds would all go to charity," said Hellard, adding a nice touch to a relationship the team has worked hard to mend following the Michael Feterik/Fred Fateri follies.

Given the team's status as one of the early Grey Cup favourites, season-ticket sales have been brisk, already approaching last year's 20,000 mark for fully paid packages (24,000 including sponsors tickets).


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