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Penguins tickets will shoot up 18.7 percent

| Saturday, April 3, 2010

Location, not price, was the consideration of most Penguins season ticketholders who responded to a letter and 24-page packet sent this week regarding seats for the team's inaugural season at Consol Energy Center.

"To be honest with you, location (was more important)," said Joe Tomon, 57, of Ellwood City, a ticketholder since 1974-75 whose first-row glass seats will increase from $90 to $110. "I love my seats. What I was scared of was they were going to move me for someone more important.

"They could have made it a lot worse. They've got the bull by the horns."

Prices will increase for Penguins games next season, as they have for the past several.

NHL revenue primarily is tied into gate sales, and the Penguins have played to home sellouts for three years while spending to the salary cap to keep young stars Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury.

The average non-premium ticket price for this season is $55.55, ninth-highest in the NHL, according to the publication Team Marketing Report. The average for next season is $65.94 — an 18.7 percent increase.

The Penguins raised non-premium ticket prices by an average of 8 percent for this season, coming off a Stanley Cup championship in June. Their franchise-record home sellout streak dates to Feb. 14, 2007, and will extend to 157 games today for a 1 p.m. game against Atlanta.

The waiting list for season tickets has 3,800 names. But despite demand, the club opted not to sell personal seat licenses as the Steelers did for their move in 2001 from Three Rivers Stadium to Heinz Field. The Steelers would not comment for this story.

The Pirates did not sell seat licenses for non-premium seats during their move in 2001 into PNC Park, according to director of media relations Jim Trdinich.

Tom McMillan, Penguins vice president of communications, said the hockey team hired an independent consultant and worked with the Steelers, Pirates and other NHL clubs that recently moved into arenas to develop a plan for handling the transition into Consol Energy Center.

"We learned that it's best to answer as many questions in advance, and that's why we sent out this booklet, because the simple thread is that any new arena is going to have a different design," he said.

Some notable differences between Mellon Arena and Consol Energy Center: fewer aisles, no skyboxes and no comparable C level at the new arena. Mellon Arena has six seating levels, compared to two at Consol Energy Center.

McMillan said the Penguins provided season ticketholders about two months to decide whether they want to keep seats offered to them this week, or move to other areas.

No seats offered this week are permanent. The club provided an on-line form for requested moves, and team ticket representatives can be reached by phone.

Season ticketholders cannot tour the arena because it is under construction. However, they can view sightlines provided of their seats by using a 3D function at the team's Web site: .

Gaetana Wirth, 38, of Coraopolis used the site's 3-D function to look at her seats and request a new location for a different view.

"I wanted to make sure my husband would be able to sit with me because I'm in a wheelchair. For the most part, the location and the whole process went according to plan," said Wirth, who has muscular dystrophy.

"(Penguins customer service manager) Kathy Davis ... stood in front of the section and had someone stand up to tell if I could see. When people stand up (at Mellon Arena), I can't see anything," Wirth said. "This new arena, there's going to be no obstructed view. I'm really excited about it. I can't wait to see it."

Consol Energy Center, a partly publicly subsidized arena that will seat 18,087 for hockey, will consist of an upper and lower bowl divided by premium luxury seating.

Mellon Arena, which opened in 1961 as a multi-purpose facility, housed the Penguins since their 1967 debut. The most expensive premium seat that first season was $5, according to the team's media guide from that year.

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