Carolina Hurricanes fans attending Tuesday’s game against the Ottawa Senators will have an interesting offer: sit in the lower bowl or possibly the suites at PNC Arena.
New Hurricanes owner Tom Dundon has put a priority on filling the lower level for games, saying it provides a better game atmosphere and hopefully more of a home-ice advantage for the Canes in the stretch run of the season. Add in the suites and there are 12,038 seats to fill.
For Tuesday’s game, those who have seats in the upper deck will be invited to take a seat in the lower bowl, or placed in available suites if there’s an overflow. That could mean the owner’s suite, if needed, said Dundon, who joked that he could always find a TV somewhere to watch the game.
“I want the lower bowl to be energetic and packed,” Dundon said in an interview. “It’s obvious it’s sort of a playoff push now.
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“We’re going to let the people who want to come down and get a better experience. I think we’re going to run out of tickets so we’re going to have to open up suites … to make sure we take care of as many people as we can.”
Dundon said no one would be stopped from sitting in the upper deck. There is a group of fans who call themselves “Section 328” that may not want to be displaced. There are no plans to lower the black curtains, Dundon said.
“I think it would be awesome if there’s nobody up there but it might end up there’s a few because people have their preferences,” Dundon said. “I’m hoping they all want to come down and get it closer and make it louder. That’s the goal, to make this more the playoff-type environment.”
The Canes, four points out of playoff position, are beginning an eight-game homestand, their longest of the season. There are 10 home games in February, and the team is offering ticket promotions to help fill the building.
Mike Forman, the Hurricanes’ director of marketing and brand strategy, said the feedback from season-ticket holders about the ticket discounts has primarily been positive.
“We’re always trying to protect their value,” Forman said. “The price point (in ticket promotions) is better but does not come with same benefits and experiences our season-ticket members have.
“When we get more people in the building, it’s good for their season-ticket value. I’d say eight of 10 appreciate that we’re doing all we can to fill the building.”
The Hurricanes are 30th in the NHL in home attendance at 12,936 for the first 21 games – 69.3 percent of capacity. The New York Islanders are last in the league at 12,059, but that’s 76.3 percent of capacity at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
But Canes’ attendance has been trending upward of late. The turnout was 17,975 for the Dec. 29 game against Pittsburgh. In the three home games since Dundon became majority owner on Jan. 11, the Canes have averaged 15,587 fans.
Canes forward Justin Williams said the players have noticed and appreciate the larger crowds at home.
“It’s huge, very beneficial,” Williams said. “When you come out and all you see is red seats. ... It doesn’t really change anything but a large crowd might give you an added little spunk when it’s the middle of the third (period) and it’s tied and you hear the fans screaming when you score a big goal.
“That’s kind of what we play for. We’re in the NHL for a reason and one of the reasons is we want to play in front of a lot of pople and make memories for a lot of people.”
The Canes said tables would be set up at the arena for those fans swapping out tickets and upgrading for Tuesday’s game. Tickets purchased at the box office will begin at $40, matching the price offered in the team’s “Fanuary” promotion for lower-bowl tickets.
Dundon said the seating strategy Tuesday may not be a one-and-done.
“I would expect we would do it again because I like the idea,” he said. “We’ll see how it goes and how loud it gets. If it’s loud and I think it’s an advantage I think we’re going to try and do it more. We’ll find out.”