Oak View Group says it acquired 10,000 NHL season ticket deposits in just 12 minutes while it had surpassed 25,000 in a little over an hour. Fans were asked to put down deposits of $500 and $1,000 depending on season ticket type.
Twelve minutes in to the biggest National Hockey League test this city has known, its fans crashed the system.
The Oak View Group had set a goal of 10,000 season ticket deposits of $500 and $1,000 for a future NHL expansion team at KeyArena when an online submission portal went live at 10 a.m. PT on Thursday. By 10:12 a.m., the goal of 10,000 had already been surpassed and the online reservation system set up through Ticketmaster couldn’t keep up.
Some fans reported long delays in processing requests, while some said the system hung up and forced them to retry several times.
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“I think at one point, they told me we had between 50,000 and 60,000 people that were trying to get in,’’ OVG head Tim Leiweke said. “It was crazy.’’
OVG shut things down at 5 p.m. Friday, after receiving 33,000 total deposits, and opened a wait list for more deposits Saturday morning. Seattle had responded with 25,000 in the first hour and 32,000 total the first 24 hours.
“I think the NHL is surprised, very pleasantly surprised,’’ Leiweke said. “And so I think they’re very happy. We still have work to do. But I think it sends a great message to the league and it’s what we’ve been telling them about Seattle. So, I think this is a great day for the league.’’
It took Las Vegas, considered a highly successful NHL expansion franchise launch, about six weeks to reach 10,000 commitments.
The $500 deposits were for general season tickets while another 5,000 “club” seats in the lower center ice level between the two bluelines quickly got snatched up for reservations of $1,000 apiece. Lewieke said those making deposits will receive a “priority number’’ by next week in the order in which they paid their reservation fees.
After that, OVG expects to have a computerized seating configuration of KeyArena worked out by April and will begin contacting people by May about seat location and pricing.
Full refunds on deposits can still be obtained once pricing becomes known. Leiweke cautioned that fans should still register through Friday because there’s a good chance everybody on the list will have a priority crack at full or partial season tickets, mini-season tickets and even some single game seats.
“It’s going to be essentially who gets priority for all tickets,’’ he said. “That will be essentially our club, our fan club and our partners, and we’ll begin communicating with them often.’’
He said his next priority for now is hiring a team president and getting expansion approval for Seattle on to the agenda of the NHL’s board of governors meeting in June.
Leiweke said the group began getting an inkling of just how quickly things might go based on the sheer volume of fans registering for further information about the ticket campaign on the NHLSeattle.com website since its launch last week.
“We were doing simple math and had an equation as to where we would end up at and I can tell you we’re a couple of thousand away from where we thought we’d be with the rest of the day to go,’’ he said. “So, we’re humbled and presently surprised and extremely happy. But we’re not shocked.’’
Leiweke said they’ll cap the drive by Friday simply because “we don’t want to be sitting on people’s money beyond a certain number.’’
A good chunk of that money might still be refunded once folks get a better idea of what NHL season tickets cost.
In Las Vegas, for instance, the cost of a lower level center ice club seat was $9,460 for 44 home games — three of them preseason. The cost of the best lower level blue line seats were $5,500, while the best upper deck seats were $3,300 and the cheapest “upper end” seat in the house was $1,100.
But the Vegas Golden Knights, who launched this season, are still the most successful expansion team in NHL history. They are neck-and-neck for first place overall with the Tampa Bay Lightning and generating huge ticket demand.
Would-be Seattle hockey team owners David Bonderman and Jerry Bruckheimer joined Leiweke on Wednesday in saying the NHL had already assured them of favorable expansion draft rules equal to what the Knights received. Those rules should allow the Seattle franchise to be competitive right away and offset some of its record $650 million pricetag.
Selling more season tickets is the first step towards the hockey owners doing just that. And for now, at least, a Seattle market trying to demonstrate its affinity for winter sports has put its money where its mouth is.