Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Business soars thanks to Jets suite

Executive box a lure for prospective clients

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Any apprehension Joe Cyr had after signing a 10-year agreement for a luxury suite to watch the Winnipeg Jets last season evaporated after the fourth game.

That's because the business the president and CEO of Price Industries was able to capture while the Jets and Pittsburgh Penguins played on the ice below more than paid for the suite for the entire season.

"It was a massive investment decision. We saw it as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We had lots of qualms about it. At the time, you couldn't be certain how it would all play out. Who knew how wonderful an experience it would be?" he said.

"We had no inkling it would pay off quickly. The fact that it went over so well with our customers and paid off so quickly was sheer good fortune (as opposed to) great planning. Our estimate is it will pay for itself many times over each year."

The key for Price Industries, a designer and manufacturer of heating, ventilation and air-conditioning products for non-residential buildings that employs more than 800 Winnipeggers, was getting its guests to visit its Price Research Center North. Once they had toured the research and development facility and spoken with its team of engineers and software developers, it was only a matter of time until a deal was signed.

"If we can get them on our home ice, we win. Our home record is better than the Jets' record. It's literally 100 per cent," he said.

"Having an NHL team, a suite and a chance to combine a visit to our research facility and a Jets game is a knock-out punch. We were able to get more engineers and contractors to visit than ever before."

Not every visitor cheered for the home team, however. When San Jose came to town in January, the Price suite was full of California engineers and contractors wearing Sharks gear.

From an investment standpoint, Cyr said he would have preferred to sign on for a half suite and decide whether to up the ante in a few years. But considering the overwhelming demand for Jets tickets and suites, he didn't have that luxury.

Scott Brown, the Jets' director of corporate communications, said every one of the 55 luxury suites was locked up last summer for seven to 10 years. They weren't cheap, either. Depending on the location, the annual costs per suite ranged from about $100,000 to nearly $200,000.

"There was no difficulty selling the suites. There is a waiting list," Brown said. "There was good feedback from the suite holders. We're pleased that people are happy with the service they received."

Like all hockey fans, Cyr is hoping the NHL and its players' association can sign a new collective bargaining agreement before Sept. 15 to avoid a lockout.

"Our reps across Canada and in every major U.S. city are already planning visits to Winnipeg to come to (Jets) games with their engineers and contractors. Games are being gobbled up," he said.

geoff.kirbyson@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 20, 2012 A4

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