Turbulence on MTS Centre re-entry expected, True North says


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True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd.'s decision to bar patrons from re-entry at future MTS Centre events was the talk of the town Thursday.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 04/05/2017 (2148 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

True North Sports and Entertainment Ltd.’s decision to bar patrons from re-entry at future MTS Centre events was the talk of the town Thursday.

Talk radio, social media and Internet message boards were buzzing as Winnipeg Jets fans (and non-fans) weighed in on the new policy’s impact on smokers, MTS Centre washroom and concession lines and losing the option to run down the street mid-event for less-expensive beer.

The word “greed” was invoked many times to describe the corporate entity that owns and operates the MTS Centre, the National Hockey League’s Jets and the American Hockey League’s Manitoba Moose. Even the Jets’ official Twitter page was littered with nasty replies from those unhappy with the decision — or the franchise’s stated rationale behind it — that comes into full effect Sept. 1.

The furor, however, is likely to be short-lived, Mount Royal University professor of sports management David Legg said Thursday from Calgary.

“Professional sports franchises are dependant on the goodwill of their customers. They are almost solely dependant on that, so they have to be very cautious and wary of decisions they make that may upset their customer base, balanced with risk management and being a business and trying to generate revenue,” he said.

“It is important to recognize, too, sometimes that those that are most vocal may just be the minority. Whereas, the majority may like it or not really care too much.”

The timing of the announcement — months in advance of the start of the 2017-18 pro hockey season — was calculated to give patrons time to adapt, and vent, True North spokesman Rob Wozny said in an email.

“We recognize the no re-entry policy transition may be disruptive to some of our patrons in the beginning. Based on this same transition in other NHL markets, we anticipated a wide range of opinions and comments in the public and on social media,” the email said.

“With the significant 2017 MTS Centre concourse renovations, enhancements to our food and beverage offerings, and to further align with increased security protocols of the NHL, we determined now was the best time to update our re-entry policy to a no re-entry policy, providing as much notice as possible to our patrons.”

Despite the local uproar, the best thing for the Jets to do is to stay quiet on the subject, Legg said.

“From a business perspective, it does seem a bit ludicrous… you don’t want your patrons spending their money on food and beverage (anywhere) other than your facility,” he said.

“I don’t think there is a lot of benefit for the team to get into a conversation on Twitter with angry fans. The smart move is to be public about why the decision was made, recognize that inconvenience may be caused and that they are apologetic for that… however, sometimes change has to happen.”

On Wednesday, True North it was adopting a no re-entry policy to better align the MTS Centre with NHL security requirements and “have greater control of the air temperature year-round” in the 13-year-old arena. During a media gathering later in the day, Kevin Donnelly, senior vice-president of venues and entertainment, name-dropped the Calgary Flames and Edmonton Oilers as NHL franchises to recently make similar moves.

On Thursday, Tim Shipton, senior vice-president of communications with the Oilers Entertainment Group (which operates Rogers Place and owns the Oilers and the Western Hockey League’s Edmonton Oil Kings), would not go into detail on the transition the franchise made when moving into its brand-new facility last fall.

“When it came to creating a no re-entry policy at Rogers Place, we did a lot of research and in the NHL… teams had already implemented a similar policy,” Shipton said in an email. “Safety for our guests is our No. 1 priority and we felt it was appropriate for our guests to implement this best practice. Thanks to the co-operation of our guests, we feel it’s gone quite smooth so far.”

The Flames did not respond to a request for comment.

Based on data collected by the organization, True North said Wednesday the no re-entry policy will impact about 1,500 Jets patrons per game, roughly 10 per cent of those in attendance. That number does carry some weight, Legg said, so True North will have to keep its ears open while sticking to its guns on the new rules.

“Ten per cent is not an insignificant group. So I think the Jets have to be wary of that and look at ways to be creative… so fans will have a satisfactory and exceptional experience at the rink (while) mitigating risk and also increasing revenues. As a business, that is normal practice,” said Legg, a former president of the Canadian Paralympic Committee.

“If you are a business, you want to try to minimize risk. (Modern arena security practices are) an added inconvenience to the patron, however, I think most rinks recognize they are also responsible and liable for the safety of their patrons, so they are taking steps to try to minimize risk,” he said.

“Now when I go to games, I know it is going to be there, I expect it and it doesn’t necessarily bother me, whereas perhaps the first few times it did.

“I think (the anger in Winnipeg) will blow over fairly quickly… If the Jets go on a winning streak, I think that cures all ills right there.”


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