December 8, 2019

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Bell MTS Place, and the Burt, shift to digital-only tickets

Don't have a smart phone? Getting into an event at Bell MTS Place or the Burton Cummings Theatre may now be tougher for you.

True North Sports and Entertainment, the company which owns both the downtown arena and the iconic theatre, is rolling out digital-only tickets. Printing at home is no longer an option.

<p>Starting this season, you can't print Jets tickets at home, you have to have a smartphone using the NHL app.</p>

MIKE DEAL / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Starting this season, you can't print Jets tickets at home, you have to have a smartphone using the NHL app.

For the upcoming Winnipeg Jets season, tickets will all be distributed and accepted through an official NHL app. Once downloaded, users can set up a personal account, and then can add tickets from within the app to their phone's digital wallet.

For people without mobile phones, tickets can also be managed on a home computer or tablet, and picked up with government-issued ID from the box office.

It's the same for concerts and other events at the arena or the theatre.

"Based on the experience of going with digital tickets during the playoffs last spring for single seats and for viewing parties, we remain confident our fans will continue to embrace the convenience," said Rob Wozny, True North's vice-president of communications and community engagement.

While people with iPhones or Androids are well-equipped for the change — which True North says has benefits in terms of ensuring only verified tickets get into the hands of consumers — others are less excited by the change.

Stu Reid, who chooses not to have a mobile phone, has tickets to Friday's Cheap Trick concert. At least, he thought he did. But when he got an email to inform him the concert would be the first of True North's digital-only events, he had to figure out how he'd get in the door. The email laid out the process of getting his ticket, so he called Ticketmaster, and after 15 minutes, found out he'd have a printed ticket waiting for him at the Burt the day of the show.

Reid has never had a cell phone, and was taken aback by the new policy. He says calling Ticketmaster wasn't too much of a hassle, the no-printing policy isn't convenient for those who don't have smart phones out of choice or because they can't afford them. According to the Pew Research Centre, about 71 per cent of Canadians have smart phones.

The Jets digital ticketing information page frames the change as an upgrade in terms of convenience, saying, "You and your guests will no longer need to print tickets in order to access Bell MTS Place for Winnipeg Jets Hockey Games."

Kevin Donnelly, True North's senior vice-president of venues and entertainment, says the move isn't meant to exclude anyone from accessing the company's entertainment, which includes Jets and Moose home games.

"We share everyone's concerns and we don't want this to be a restrictive process or one that's going to hamper their enjoyment," Donnelly said Monday. "In every case, there's tickets that can be printed at the door," he added. "There is a process where we can accommodate everyone."

"People who come to events with smart phones at Bell MTS Place make up the majority of our patrons. Ensuring that all our patrons can enter our facilities, regardless of whether they have a mobile device or not, is important to True North," Wozny said, adding that standard ticket options are still available at the box office.

For Donnelly, who has been heavily involved in the city's entertainment scene since his days with Nite Out Entertainment, the move to digital ticketing is meant to keep pace with industry trends and standards, which generally are leaning to the digital side.

"We are participating in this alongside all of our peers in the industry," said Donnelly.

Many NHL and National Football League teams have already adopted the digital ticket technology, and the type of purchasing is commonplace in Europe, he noted.

Donnelly says the change aims to address the issue of reselling tickets. He says that when home-printed tickets are allowed, it's not uncommon for scalpers to print multiple versions, which can then lead to fans showing up with a fake ticket they'd believed was authentic. "It's a real problem for us," he said. It happens at almost every event True North puts on, he added.

Instead of sharing print-outs, Jets tickets can now be sent over the app, which the team says is equipped with the highest available security to protect personal information.

Sent tickets can also be recalled provided they haven't already been accepted by a recipient. As well, tickets can be transferred after the game begins, although they can't be posted for resale after the event starts.

While Donnelly says the company understands concerns like Reid's, it hopes to continue toward becoming digital-only, although he said some events and concerts will accept PDFs on occasion.

"We want to educate people to adopt the digital platform," he said. "The technology has been out there for a long time," he added.

Donnelly said there was similar concern when the Jets adopted a reusable card instead of single tickets prior to the 2012-2013 NHL season, but people managed to adapt to that change with relative ease.

"We have occurrences where people forget their tickets," Donnelly said. "But they rarely forget their phones."

 

ben.waldman@freepress.mb.ca

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman
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Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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