Strength of arena’s economic impact may hinge on Devils’ playoff opponent
While sports economists said a third-round NHL playoffs matchup between the New Jersey Devils and Washington Capitals would be more beneficial to the region than a faceoff with the New York Rangers, a Prudential Center spokesman said the arena couldn't care less about the Devils' opponent — it just wants to bring in people from New Jersey.
"Conference finals are conference finals, at this point," said Robert Sommer, president of Rock Entertainment Management, the marketing arm of the arena. "Between hosting the Rangers and hosting the Capitals, hosting the Devils is most beneficial. It's better to have people from New Jersey, and we're clearly selling these tickets to Devils fans."
Sommer said he expects heavy Devils fan representation because of the pace of sales even before an opponent has been named. Individual conference finals tickets at Prudential Center went on sale to the general public this morning, and sold out within 10 minutes, he said.
But if Prudential Center brought in fans from a team that was not located in the immediate Newark and New York area — like the Capitals — it would have a greater economic impact on the northern part of the state, according to Victor Matheson, associate professor of sports and gaming economic at the College of the Holy Cross.
"When you get people traveling from one area to another, it's more likely to lead to an increase in economic activity," Matheson said. "If you're just hosting locals, they're spending their money in the area anyway, so you're just basically shifting around dollars."
The Devils punched their ticket to the conference finals Tuesday night in Philadelphia, defeating the favored Flyers in five games. The team will have to wait until the conclusion of Saturday's Game 7 between the Rangers and Capitals to learn who its opponent will be.
According to Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College, if the Devils end up facing the Rangers in the next round, the region will miss out on increased economic activity from additional travel, which he said stems from outside media pouring into the region. But Zimbalist said, regardless of opponent, the Devils could potentially net an additional $1 million in revenue from advancing far into the playoffs. If the conference finals matchup is highly localized and rivaled, the main benefit for the team is increasing its fan base and sponsorships, Zimalist said
Still, Sommer said filling the arena with New Jerseyans has an impact all its own, noting that season ticket sales are now "up substantially from this time last year."
"We have two huge banks who are suiteholders, and for the Flyers series, executives couldn't get into the suites, because clients wanted the tickets," Sommer said.
For the Devils' 2011 and 2012 regular season, Prudential Center had a record year in sponsorships, but Sommer said the arena has been even more aggressive in obtaining sponsors for next season as the Devils progress in the playoffs.
"This is the first time the team has gone this deep into the playoffs here," Sommer said. "We just had our best year … and it will only get better."
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