Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Panther fans see red over red section

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- Allyn White is among a group of fans seeing red over the Florida Panthers' latest red-themed initiative unveiled this summer.

Season-ticket holders in three prime sections at BankAtlantic Center received a letter more than a week ago advising them of tentative plans to convert part of the lower bowl into an "ultra-premium, all-inclusive" area to be known as Club Red beginning in July 2012. They were given first right of refusal or the option of choosing comparable seats at a 50 percent discount for the 2012-13 season.

The price to join the exclusive club rocked White like a blindside check. He said he was told his seats would cost $22,500 apiece, which would cover other events at BAC in addition to Panthers games. He said he paid about $5,000 for two seats at center ice in row 15 for the upcoming hockey season.

"I've been a season-ticket holder since Day 1 in Miami. I've never missed a game. You're telling me too bad, your $5,000 tickets are now going to be $45,000?" said White, who runs a travel agency in Fort Lauderdale. "I don't want to sit in the corners. I don't want to sit in row 3. I sit in ... prime seats, which I've earned. I've got the best seats in the house."

The sections that would become Club Red -- 134, 101 and 102 -- straddle centre ice behind the team benches.

Members would have access to a plush bar and lounge area with high-end food and beverage options.

"Obviously, it's going to be a significant revenue generator for the organization. We also think it's going to create a very unique experience for those people that become members," said Michael Yormark, president and COO of the Panthers. "We did do focus groups, we talked to our season-seat holders. This was not something that was done in haste."

-- McClatchy news service

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 21, 2011 B2

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