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Volume 20 No. 42


When the NHL returns to action, Montreal Canadiens players will be seen in a new light. The team and the Bell Centre, the club’s 16-year-old arena, have invested more than $700,000 in a new lighting system.

Lidlum Sport, a system created by Quebec-based LED Innovation Design, was set to debut with the Canadiens’ scheduled home opener two weeks ago, but the NHL lockout altered the plan. Now, the system will be experienced in-game for the first time on Nov. 9, for an American Hockey League game featuring the Hamilton Bulldogs, the Canadiens’ top minor league affiliate.

Bell Centre’s new lighting system, created by LED Innovation Design, cost more than $700,000.
The team-owned and operated Bell Centre had been using metal halide lighting, dating to its opening in 1996. That’s the system most arenas built in those years installed. Over time though, other arenas changed to more-modern systems. Lighting at the Bell Centre became obsolete. When the lights were dimmed, as NHL arenas commonly do during intermissions, it would take four to five minutes to return to full power. There were significant shadows on the ice, and broadcasters were dissatisfied by how the lighting translated to the screen in high-definition. Lamps were burning out every six months. Replacement hardware was getting harder to source.

“We weren’t meeting the standards we’ve always had to provide our fans with the best,” said Kevin Gilmore, Canadiens executive vice president and chief operating officer. “It was time for a change.”

In May, Gilmore and Alain Gauthier, the Bell Centre’s general manager of facility operations, met with Jean-Louis Legault, the former president of Daktronics Canada and now an executive with LED Innovation Design. After being unsuccessful in their search to find effective replacement lamps, Gilmore and Gauthier were intrigued by LED Innovation Design’s willingness to create a system to address their game presentation and broadcasting needs.

The new system has many benefits. The intensity in foot-candle is 1,800 lux, up from 900 lux, and eliminates shadows. The Lidlum Sport product consumes 65 percent less electricity than the metal halide system, and each of the new system’s light fixtures is expected to last for 54,000 hours as opposed to 3,000 hours in the old system.

The Canadiens estimate that payback from having lower operating and maintenance costs will be seen within two to three years. Power in the arena bowl now can be at full peak immediately. The system also runs cooler, improving the quality of the ice surface.

Upon installation of the system, Gilmore and Gauthier approved a test run, in part to draw feedback from television networks. The Canadiens invited staffers from Le Groupe Numérique, the broadcast technology consultants for CBC and RDS, to visit the arena in late September.

“The difference in the coverage of the ice, compared to what the Bell Centre had the last few years, is amazing,” said René Villeneuve, an associate for Le Group Numérique. “We were really pleased.”

The Canadiens have been so satisfied by Lidlum Sport that the club sent an email to the league’s other 29 teams extolling the system’s merits. Dan Craig, the NHL’s senior director of facility operations, also inspected the lighting. “There were no hot spots on the ice and there were no dull spots,” Craig said. “You can put your hand on any of the lights an hour after they are turned on and you won’t feel any heat.”

Dynamic ticket pricing made its MLB postseason debut this year, and in San Francisco, Oakland and St. Louis, each club used the system to generate incremental revenue and sell more season tickets.

The A’s used dynamic pricing and it helped them sell out their three home divison series playoff games.
The three teams, each serviced by dynamic ticketing company Qcue with the aid of primary ticketing partner and MLB Advanced Media, represented a trial run for baseball into fluctuating prices during the sport’s most important month of the season. Team executives said the number of single-game playoff tickets subject to dynamic pricing ranged from mere dozens to at most several thousand a game. Available inventories were significantly compressed by seats bought by season-ticket holders and during initial on-sale periods.

Increases in ticket prices, made by the clubs to reflect strong demand, in some cases exceeded 70 percent, so the experiment proved to be a strong revenue enhancement. Dynamic pricing was used for the League Division Series and League Championship Series; ticket prices will remain static for the World Series.

“The dynamic pricing in the playoffs definitely brought a lot of benefit,” said Steve Fanelli, Oakland A’s executive director of ticket sales and operations. “Particularly for us, not having clinched the [AL West] division until the very end of the season, it allowed us to capture some of the additional groundswell of interest. More importantly, it also allowed us to have another tool to communicate the benefits of being a season-ticket holder and locking in early” and avoiding any increases that dynamic pricing can produce.

The A’s sold out all three of their home games in their Division Series loss to Detroit. Fanelli declined to specify the additional revenue from dynamic pricing. But he said the effort was “effective” as some lower-level seats in Oakland, for example, grew from an initial price of $55 to $95 during the frenetic Oct. 3-11 period in which the A’s clinched the division and then played the Division Series. Lesser-priced sections also rose in price by similar percentages. The A’s typically went into their system twice a day to review and adjust ticket prices for available single-game seats.

The Cardinals were comparatively more conservative in their dynamic pricing execution, altering prices at most once a day, and often once every other day. But like the A’s and Giants, the club sought to use dynamic pricing as a means to seek out a more realistic view on the marketplace.

“What we’re trying to do is get the pricing right,” said Joe Strohm, Cardinals vice president of ticket sales. “There’s less vagaries in the system for the playoffs just given there’s far less runway before each game in terms of time. But conceptually, it’s the same as the regular season in that we’re trying to optimize the pricing.”

Testing dynamic pricing in the playoffs has been a goal of the Giants, one of the earliest adopters of the concept, for more than two years. Russ Stanley, the team’s vice president of ticket sales and service, said before the club’s 2010 World Series appearance that he was eager to see the system employed in October.

“There is such a huge middle ground between face value and what the market is actually bearing on StubHub. It’s ridiculous,” Stanley said then.

Still, elevations in dynamic pricing in most instances for the St. Louis, Oakland and San Francisco playoff games remained below peak levels seen on the secondary market.