Cheers & beers

Daniel MacEachern
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Fans foam over price of suds at Mile One. Beer would be fourth most expensive in NHL, but arena GM says it keeps costs down for taxpayers

— Telegram illustration

Hockey fan Jeff Lush was excited when professional hockey returned to St. John’s this past fall.

The Memorial University commerce student, along with a couple of friends, spent about $1,000 for a season ticket, but he was surprised at how much he found he’d have to spend to enjoy a beer or two at a game.

At Mile One, it’s $6 for a 12-ounce bottle of beer.

“When I went to the home-opener — whenever you buy any product, you kind of have a price in your head of what it’s going to be. And then when you arrive to the cash register and the price is higher than that, you’re somewhat shocked. If you go downtown or any hotel, it’s between $4.25 and $5.50 (for a bottle of beer).”

Lush said he knows premium prices are charged at premium events, but when he consulted a National Hockey League (NHL) marketing report, he was surprised to find that — on a per-ounce basis — Mile One beer, at 50 cents an ounce, would be tied for the fourth most expensive beer in the NHL this season, behind only Montreal, Nashville and Columbus.

“I was immediately, like, something is not right here. This is definitely a gouging situation. That caused me to start asking the question and look around. I think with the excitement of hockey coming back, I think the opportunity to rip off the consumer and take advantage is definitely there. Combined with the popularity of (St. John’s IceCaps president) Danny Williams, I think this was ripe for taking advantage of people.”

He’s not the only fan who thinks so. Several IceCaps ticket holders interviewed by The Telegram suggested they were concerned by the cost of suds, Although none said the price would stop them from buying beer, a few said the cost would keep them from buying more than one or two.

James Goodwin said he was shocked when he saw the price of beer at his first IceCaps game.

“I was born and raised in Toronto, so I’m used to excessive beer prices, like if you go to a Jays game or Maple Leafs. But I’d been in New Brunswick the last few years. I went to a whole bunch of (Quebec Major Junior Hockey League) games in Saint John, and I think it was $3 a beer there,” he said. “And while I understand the AHL team is a semi-pro team while the QMJHL team was an amateur league, in terms of quality of play, they’re on par with each other — if the QMJHL’s not just a little bit better. And I was shocked what they’re making the fans pay.”

”You’re a captive audience once you’re in there. I wouldn’t brand myself an alcoholic, but I certainly would like a beer or two while I’m at a hockey game.”

Lush took his concerns to the Ice Caps via a letter early in the season, pointing out the per-ounce price was more expensive than most NHL arenas (as well as pointing to other problems with the game experience that Lush says have improved as the season has gone on).

Rob Mullowney, the IceCaps’ vice-president of operations, responded to Lush, saying he thinks the price of beer is fair.

“I have no concerns with the price of beer. That said, Mile One Centre sets all food and beverage pricing,” he wrote. “Given the sales volume over the past six games, it would appear that the pricing has been set appropriately.”

Beer at IceCaps games is also priced comparably with other Canadian AHL franchises — except for Abbotsford, B.C. A 12-ounce beer at the Abbotsford Sports and Entertainment Centre, where the Heat play, will set you back $4.75. Toronto Marlies fans pay $6.50 for 14 ounces of beer at Ricoh Coliseum, a slightly better per-ounce rate than in St. John’s, while thirsty fans at Copps Coliseum, where the Hamilton Bulldogs play, pay $6.50 for 12 ounces. All three other Canadian AHL arenas serve draft beer.

Mullowney told the Telegram that while food and beverage operations aren’t the IceCaps’ direct responsibility, they do provide regular feedback to Mile One administration.

“It’s certainly our understanding that they’re working hard on their end to make improvements, whether it’s on what I would describe as product choice as well as service, as two examples.”

He added he doesn’t think the prices have anything to do with taking advantage of giddy fans who are glad to have professional hockey back.

“They have operational costs that they need to recoup. There’s obviously going to be a margin put on a product, and supply and demand — it’s normal economics,” he said.

Bill Thistle, general manager of St. John’s Sports and Entertainment, which runs Mile One, acknowledged that the arena’s beer is on the high end for the St. John’s market, but he says there’s a reason for that.

“That’s the way we priced it and I guess we’ll continue to price it into the future, basically,” he said. “It’s one of our major sources of revenue here to try to keep costs of the building down for taxpayers. It’s one of our revenue streams.”

Thistle added that Mile One didn’t examine markets other than St. John’s before setting the price of the beer, preferring to keep it at the high end for the city. “We’re trying to keep the cost down for the taxpayer and let the people who use the building pay for the building.”

Thistle pointed out the price of beer is the same for concerts. “It really has nothing to do with the hockey team,” he said.

As for why the arena serves bottled beer rather than draft, Thistle said it’s because before hockey started back up, the length of time between events at the arena was a factor. But they will be reconsidering.

“We’re going to look at it again. We got away from draft because when you have concerts, you might have a concert in July and another one at the end of September. Draft beer doesn’t hold up well,” he said. “So that is one of the things that we’ll be looking at. We’ll be looking at pouring rates and stuff like that, as well. That’s all part of our process as we make changes for the hockey.”

Thistle declined to say how much beer is sold during IceCaps games, beyond “We do well.”

And the fans — even the ones who griped about the price — say the price isn’t high enough to stop them from buying it altogether.

“I don’t know where my quit price is, but they could probably charge close to 10 bucks a bottle before I’d finally just give up,” said Goodwin.

And Lush, who wrote the letter to IceCaps management, said he’d prefer Mile One to switch to draft beer, which would be an easy way to drop the price. He says six bucks is the limit to what he’d pay for a beer right now.

And despite the price of beer, there’s a big reason he’s glad he got season tickets for the Atlantic Division-leading IceCaps: “The on-ice product has been outstanding.”

Twitter: TelegramDaniel

Fact box:

Most expensive NHL beer prices

                         price      size    cents per ounce

1. Montreal Canadiens     $9.94     16 oz    62.1

2. Columbus Blue Jackets     $6.75     12 oz        56.3

2. Nashville Predators      $6.75     12 oz    56.3

4. Florida Panthers           $8.00    16 oz    50.0

4. Detroit Red Wings        $6.00    12 oz     50.0

4. Phoenix Coyotes          $8.00    16 oz    50.0

St. John’s IceCaps          $6.00     12 oz       50.0

NHL average            $6.80     16 oz    42.5

27. New York Rangers     $7.50      24 oz    31.3

27. Washington Capitals      $7.50      24 oz    31.3

27. Buffalo Sabres        $5.00      16 oz    31.3

30. Colorado Avalanche       $6.25      24 oz        26.0

Canadian AHL beer prices

1. Hamilton Bulldogs      $6.50    12 oz       54.2

2. St. John’s IceCaps     $6.00    12 oz      50.0

3. Toronto Marlies          $6.50    14 oz       46.4

4. Abbotsford Heat         $4.75    12 oz       39.6     

Organizations: Montreal Canadiens, Columbus Blue Jackets, Nashville Predators Florida Panthers Detroit Red Wings Phoenix Coyotes New York Rangers Washington Capitals Buffalo Sabres Colorado Avalanche

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Recent comments

  • RogerThat
    March 02, 2012 - 22:01

    As a MUN commerce graduate, this is embarrassing. How can you spend $1000 on season tickets and then complain about beer prices? Go study for your midterms and quit wasting your time sending letters to the telegram. Go take a few finance/accounting courses while you're at it.. You're not ready for the business world just yet!

  • stephen
    March 02, 2012 - 18:14

    Oh wow, it's a whole $0.25 more than it it at a bar. Gimme a break, if you complain about a difference of less than a dollar you probably can't afford to be buying beer in the first place, let alone freaking hockey tickets.

  • Glen J Mallard
    March 02, 2012 - 17:11

    I usually have one beer at the game, usually around the second period. That solves the issue for me. I really have to be in the mood for a beer before I buy it, so 6 bucks for one beer per game doesn't really bother me. The issue here is that if you decide to drop the price of beer, you're drying up a revenue stream. It costs money to run Mile One (electronics, lighting, staff, ice making-preserving equipment etc..), so you have to recoup that cost somewhere. So lets say the beer goes down to $5. Beer drinkers are happy enough, but those who come to the concessions for anything other than alcohol are going to be a little miffed when they see that the cost for a 591ml Pepsi now goes up to $4.50, or a hot chocolate runs you up 4 bucks. How about that nice plate of poutine that now sets you back $7.75? There you have it. You impact one revenue stream, you impact all of them. I have a Bachelor of Arts and I understand these basic economics quite well. We want to remain a pro hockey city with affordable tickets? We have to pay pro hockey prices.

  • Ted
    March 02, 2012 - 16:49

    I think everyone is missing the point here completely. How about questioning Mile One Centre? All of the quotes from Thistle in this article are laughable. Recoup costs? Maybe if the building wasn't ran like an elementary school lemonade stand, they could recoup costs in other ways than gouging the very citizens that subsidize this white elephant of an arena to begin with. There are much better options for Mile One/IceCaps to recoup costs such as upselling seats and creating more value for fans.

  • Bill
    March 02, 2012 - 14:32

    This is on the front page, gald I didn't spend money ordering this paper.

  • Anonymous
    March 02, 2012 - 14:08

    The price of beer in this province is outrageous overall. 24 bucks for a case? Cripes. Just make it an even 20.

    • David
      March 04, 2012 - 18:02

      "Imported" Molson Canadian is $5.99 ($4.99 on sale) for a half-dozen in U.S. grocery stores. So whenever you pop open a cold one, remember all that wonderful government porkbarrel spending you're funding! Cheers...and don't forget to buy your 649 ticket!

  • Dan
    March 02, 2012 - 13:00

    Cry me a river, Jeff Lush. You complain about the cost of beer, but can afford to spend 1k on tickets? Wait until you join the rest of us in the real world. As shameful as Jeff's behavior is, the real issue here is the fact that this is the quality young people coming out of MUN's business faculty these days. My guess is that Jeff's tuition is paid for by mommy and daddy, and that he still lives at home. He has no perception of what the real world is like, so he spends his time writing letters to people who sell him beer. By the way, $6 is completely reasonable for a beer at a venue such as Mile One.

    • Zack Ryder
      Zack Ryder
      March 02, 2012 - 16:03

      Are you serious, bro?

  • David
    March 02, 2012 - 12:32

    Hey, this is the prioce of being 'world class', just like everyone in St. John's wants.....Newfoundland for that matter. Paying extortionist prices for concession items at sporting events is 'de rigeur' upalong, so suck it up and be happy to pay it! The fact that this "beer"...ugh, that's disgusting to even type! such pathetically bottom-quality, mass-produced urine . Maybe just think of it as a 'user fee' for having that magnificent, bankrupt stadium. ....WC Fields once famously said no one ever went broke underestimating the intellignece of the buying public. Enjoy the game.

  • cp
    March 02, 2012 - 12:06

    Try going to the duke of duckworth. It's damn near 10 bucks for a pint. 6.00 for a beer, at a game, is nothing. Venues elsewhere in the world, such as Skydome or Comerica Park in Detroit charge almost 10 bucks for a daught.

  • Tommy
    March 02, 2012 - 11:24

    You people think thats bad you should see what they charge the suites for beer food etc. $35 a pizza, $5 for a 2 litre of pepsi, 6 bucks for a big bag of chips, and get this $40 for a dozen beer. Dont believe me get a pamphlet if your ever in one of those suites. Thats HIGHWAY ROBBERY!!!! Same old story Newfoundlanders sticking it to Newfoundlanders. While Im glad AHL hockey is back this is an absolute misuse of power and complete robbery. I go to the games and I dont mind paying the Ticket prices cause it is AHL hockey but I wont pay a nickel inside there cause thats a clear case of gauging people. If people were smart and they are obviously not, eat and drink to your hearts content before you go and buy nothing down there and then it will force the concessions to lower the prices. But alas we live in a society where people dont have the guts to stand up. I dare people to stay away from the concessions and see what happens, but our own stupidity and ignorance will allow us to get the boots layed to us. People who complain should stand up and take a stand. same thing for gas prices, everybody boycott one gas company and I GUARANTEE you prices will come down. If people only realized how much power we have if we band together on issues like this

  • Jeff
    March 02, 2012 - 10:58

    What's an Ounce?? Last I checked in Canada my father's generation decided that we should all be Metric!! Your doing us and Canada a disservice by using imperial measurements. A student buying $1000 season tickets and then complaining about an extra $1 on a beer. Bookies eh.

    • Imperial
      March 02, 2012 - 11:59

      I for one still use the imperial system.

  • Gordon
    March 02, 2012 - 10:53

    A few points: - Beer at a Saint John Sea Dogs game is definitely not $3 a pop. I used to go to the odd game and when I last went the previous year it was $4 for a draft. Heck, even UNB chagred about the same price for a beer at their hockey games. - Why the heck is a commerce student spending $1,000 a season ticket + god knows what else on going to a game with his buddies? Either mommy/daddy gave him the money or he used his student loan. I sure hope his major isnt accounting... - I question this guy's smarts if he took the time to send a long letter to Ice Caps mgmt. Don't you have midterms to study for? Either way, congrats for making yourself and your fellow MUN Commerce students look bad.

    • MUN Business grad
      March 02, 2012 - 12:09

      Sadly, this is a very accurate representation of MUN's business students... and they won't be any smarter by the time they're awarded their degree, either.

  • Sea Hawks
    March 02, 2012 - 10:46

    University education is wasted on these guys.

  • Ryan
    March 02, 2012 - 09:57

    The price of the beer isn't the big problem its how long it takes to get a 12 oz beer. 16 oz tall boy cans would solve the problem but NLC will not let Molson supply Mile One with the cans as they see them as a projectile which is stupid because every other arena sells them.

  • Judge
    March 02, 2012 - 09:56

    Interesting observation.. What the heck is a student doing spending $1000 on season tickets? Racking up debt and living beyond means...

    • Jordan
      March 02, 2012 - 10:59

      Any proof of that at all?

  • Newf in Edmonton
    March 02, 2012 - 09:55

    WHA WHA WHA!!!!! I see Business students....oh sorry, bookies are still whiny pre-madonnas. As one earlier person stated, first world problems. FYI, the cheapest seat at Rexall Place (approximately 16,000 seat arena) is STILL MORE EXPENSIVE than the most expensive seat at Mile One and our beer is more expensive at $7.50. Be greatful you have cheap ticket prices and reasonably priced beer and a team in the second best hockey league in the world. CHEAPSKATE

  • TR
    March 02, 2012 - 09:40

    "Rob Mullowney, the IceCaps’ vice-president of operations, responded to Lush, saying he thinks the price of beer is fair." Of course he will say that. Do you think he will say they are charging too much? Even Thistle says it's a major source of revenue. It's about $2 at the store and they should get it cheaper with their volume so they charge more than 3 times the cost. How about nobody buys a beer for a game? $6 is too much.

  • Ryan
    March 02, 2012 - 09:36

    He lost me at the "Most expensive in the NHL".don't even know what league the IceCaps play in.Nuff said.

  • JIM
    March 02, 2012 - 09:12

    i live in winnipeg and the price of suds at mts centre is a joke. this city cannot afford this team and not only beer, but everything. but thats what you get when you are paying millionare hockey players. if the fans want to pay for these very high prices, then so be, but dont come crying to taxpayer for handouts when they see the true colours of the jets in a few years.

  • Mr. T
    March 02, 2012 - 09:11

    Go out for dinner and a drink before the game! When I was a student I was complaining about the price of Kraft Dinner, not spending $1000 on a hockey ticket and $6.00 glass of beer.

  • Drew
    March 02, 2012 - 08:59

    During the Fog Devil Years beer was 4.75 at Mile One, though there needed to be a price increase because of inventory waste (with no hockey team there for the last few years, beer would expire faster than it could be sold) , that seems to be a significant hike in price. 4.75 was great because as a staff member you would usually get the quarter as a tip which added up pretty quickly. However, at 6 bucks I would imagine customers would be less likely to tip.

    • Tip Receiver
      March 02, 2012 - 10:20

      Tips make up a good portion of my pay. Most tips are a "keep the change" type after a dollar is broke or after a fin is broke after a bigger purchase. When draft beer is brouhgt in, the price should go up because it is a better product. The cost should be 6.25 and that way the workers will get a 75 cent tip.

  • capsfan
    March 02, 2012 - 08:32

    The price isn't the issue, it's the lines and service. The servers don't have a clue how to pour beer. Why not start selling the tall cans like in every other arena?

  • Paul R
    March 02, 2012 - 08:30

    Beer prices who really cares,the only way to deal with it is don't buy it. Thistle will have his hands full then , poor taxpayers will have to shell out some more to O'Keefe and his merrymen at the Bunker. If some one had a clue the Stadium would be else where ,the mere fact of finding a place to park is a deterrent. (By the way what are our ticket prices in comparison to the other AHL affiliates?)

  • Frankie
    March 02, 2012 - 08:14

    Hey En Jay, You Head The Nail on the Head. High Beer Prices Less, Less Problems to Deal With. Try the Shydome $10 BuckS a Beer.

  • prufock
    March 02, 2012 - 07:46

    Only in Newfoundland is the price of beer front page material. The consumer dictates the value of items. When you pay for an overpriced beer, you are essentially saying "This beer is worth six dollars to me." Commercial outlets can charge what they want, their success is dependent on how much people are willing to pay. Vote with your wallet - if you don't like the price, don't buy it. It's not like beer is an essential.

    • Elgie Andyford
      March 02, 2012 - 13:59

      How about not drinking?? Alcohol is a drug too people, makes me sad our society is so blind.

  • Brad
    March 02, 2012 - 07:30

    First world problems...

  • En Jay
    March 02, 2012 - 07:30

    I think there is a little more to the reasoning behind high beer prices than Mr. Thistle would care to admit. Perhaps they want to price beer so that people only drink one or two; then the security staff doesn't have 6000 drunk people in the stands to contend with. People would be much more inclined to drink a lot more if beers were $3 a pop, and everyone would be getting drunk and sloppy. That's what close by George Street is for.

  • Sarah
    March 02, 2012 - 07:29

    I think people just like to complain. If you went downtown - on average, you'd pay $5 for a beer, over five at places like the Sundance. I think people notice the price cause they're sober when they're buying.. If you went downtown and they raised their prices to over $6.00 how many would really notice at 1am? My season tickets are right in front of the bar and by the looks of the amount of people at the bar at one time there aren't many who have that big of an issue with the beer prices.

  • KFR
    March 02, 2012 - 07:26

    I agree totally; this is a gouging scheme not only on beer but food is a little over the top as well. A few friends and I have season tickets but after the first few games and seeing the price of beer and the confusion in the lineups to get a beer and the washrooms/food; its just a disaster. We now go out for food and beer before the game and another beer after the game. Its just too much of the actual game lost lining up for food/beverages or washrooms. PS: We have declined to renew our season tickets; deeply disappointed with Mile One layout and operations. Back to the yearly trips to Montreal/Toronto.............

  • Mike
    March 02, 2012 - 07:16

    So the top news story in NL today is beer prices at Mile One?!? I can't wait to watch NTV to see what news they can create. Too many news outlets in this province tyring to chase down stories that don't exist.

  • Kris
    March 02, 2012 - 07:06

    Although the price is a little steep for a beer, it's the way the whole industry is going. If you go downtown after a game, you are paying over $5 for a bottle of beer. The only thing that a $6 price does is hurt the tips of the server. If a beer is $5.25, I'm leaving the change to a server, if it's $6, there might not be any change to leave, but I'm willing to spend the $6.