Originally created 01/15/04

Stars lower some tickets in anticipation of NHL changes



DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars are drastically reducing the cost of more than 2,000 season tickets and lowering the price of other seats for next season, partly due to anticipated changes in the NHL's economic structure.

The league's collective bargaining agreement with its players expires before next season, and the NHL wants a new system that guarantees "cost certainty." That could be achieved with a hard salary cap, which the players' union is opposed to.

With the sides far apart, and no negotiations currently scheduled, next season is already considered to be in jeopardy.

"We are taking these steps now to fulfill our pledge to our fans to reduce the burden escalating payrolls have put on ticket prices," said Stars president Jim Lites, whose team's $67 million payroll is among the league's highest. "Our hope is that a new collective bargaining agreement will bring stability to the league."

Because of the uncertainty surrounding 2004-05, the Stars made their announcement Wednesday, 2 1/2 months before the end of the current season and are offering other incentives along with reduced prices.

"We can't ignore the issue. The labor issue is like a 500-pound elephant in the corner," Lites said.

The price of 1,283 lower-bowl seats at American Airlines Center is dropping from $90 to $65 a game (a 28 percent decrease), and a group of more than 800 second-level seats by more than 40 percent - from $60 to $34 for one set, and from $34 to $20 for another. Another 1,071 lower-bowl tickets are going from $70 to $65.

The team is offering an early renewal option that includes an additional 5 percent discount on next season and no price increase the following year. Fans would only have to pay for half of their tickets initially, and won't have to pay the rest until 60 days after the 2004-05 season is confirmed.

"Clubs are permitted to set their own ticket policies and that's what the Stars did in this case," NHL spokesman Frank Brown said.

The Stars sold about 11,000 season tickets this season and have an average attendance of 18,357, just below the capacity of 18,532. But the team's 238-game sellout streak, which included the first two seasons at American Airlines Center, ended in October.