- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2001

The Washington Capitals' 15.8-percent hike in season ticket costs is the NHL's third-highest increase this season. But the team's average ticket price of $44.48 ranks 22nd in the league, according to a new survey, keeping the Caps below the league average.

Following the July trade with Pittsburgh for star right wing Jaromir Jagr, the Caps implemented their largest price increases since moving to MCI Center in late 1997. The upward movement, however, still leaves the Caps 71 percent behind the Dallas Stars, the NHL's most expensive team to see.

The rankings were compiled by Team Marketing Report, a Chicago sports industry newsletter, and are based on season ticket and club seat prices. The league average rose 4.5 percent to $49.86. More telling, though, were the eight teams holding prices steady; Carolina and Atlanta actually lowered theirs.

"That was sort of a surprise considering in a given year you'll usually see three or four teams at most hold steady," said Kurt Hunzeker, Team Marketing Report editor. "But in most cases, these prices were set in the spring and summer, right when the economy really began to slow. Teams, like everyone else, are reacting to the marketplace."

Baseball ticket prices for 2001 rose 12.2 percent from last year, and the NFL increased prices an average of 8.7 percent.

The Caps, who ranked 26th in last year's ticket cost survey, applied increases as high as 40 percent to individual ticket purchasers. With the team still trying to build its season ticket base beyond the current level of 11,600, owner Ted Leonsis widened the gulf between the two ticket categories.

"We've made it clear from the beginning that our goal is to constantly boost the season ticket base," said Declan Bolger, Caps senior vice president of business operations. "And given the investment ownership continues to make in player payroll, we feel we're delivering value to our fans."

The Stars, moving into the new American Airlines Arena, also ranked first in Team Marketing's Fan Cost Index, which compiles the total costs for four average-priced tickets, two small beers, four small sodas, four hot dogs, parking, two programs and two caps. Dallas' total for all that came to $386.12. Washington ranked 18th at $261.92. The league average was $274.66.

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