Five luxury box suites at the University of Maine’s Alfond Arena will be transformed into a lounge for the upcoming hockey season.
Seventy-eight seats will be available within the lounge at $2,000 apiece. That averages out to $117.65 per game for 17 games.
Parking, food and drinks will be included in the price of the ticket, and there will be television sets in the lounge.
“We are trying to create a more entertaining in-game experience for the fans for this year and in future years,” said Learfield’s Keith Doughty, general manager of Black Bear Sports Properties. “We’re trying to make sure we support the program.
“The luxury suites hadn’t been selling particularly well,” Doughty added.
Four of the five luxury boxes to be replaced hadn’t been sold for this season, and the client in the one box that was sold, Coca-Cola, agreed to move to another luxury box, said Doughty.
“They were very congenial. Props to them,” he said.
Luxury suites with 12 seats in each box cost $26,000 per year.
Seats in the four luxury boxes that hadn’t been sold on a yearly basis had been sold on a game-by-game basis in recent years.
Maine season-ticket sales have plummeted in recent years with a decline of 29.4 percent from 2010-11 to this past season. That resulted in the slashing of season-ticket prices from $325 and $295 down to $255 for next season.
The primary reason for the decline in ticket sales has been the men’s hockey program’s demise from a national power that made nine-straight NCAA Tournament appearances to one that has earned just one NCAA tourney berth and posted only four winning seasons over the past nine years.
Doughty said the seats will be renovated in the lounge as will those in all of the other luxury boxes on that level. There will be four luxury boxes on each side of the new lounge.
Will Biberstein, the university’s senior associate athletic director for internal operations, said the project will cost “$40,00-$50,000” that will come out of the building maintenance fund. In addition to renovating the seats, Biberstein said there will be new flooring installed and a paint job.
The luxury boxes are located at one end of the ice behind the goal UMaine defends in the first and third periods.
Doughty said construction is expected to begin “within two to three weeks” and will be finished by the time UMaine opens its season with an exhibition game against St. Francis Xavier University of Antigonish, Nova Scotia, on Oct.2.
UMaine will play its first two regular-season games the following weekend (Oct. 7-8) against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
Doughty said two-thirds of the 78 lounge seats have been sold.
Doughty had been the sales development manager with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks and said a lounge in the BMO Harris Bradley Center where that team plays was “very, very popular.”
Seth Woodcock, the university’s senior associate athletic director of development, and Doughty said there has been a nationwide trend to add lounges to arenas in addition to having luxury suites.
“Private luxury suites are best for some, and lounges are best for others,” said Woodcock, noting that now ticket buyers will have an option.
“We’re very excited about it,” he said.
Biberstein said the university staff already has started the renovations by removing chairs and the bars from the luxury suites. A contractor soon will be hired to begin the project.
“It isn’t going to be an extensive project,” he said.
Biberstein said having a more wide-open space that will be provided by the lounge will enable people to mingle in addition to enjoying the game.
Woodcock and Doughty said they would eventually like to offer two- and three-year contracts for the lounge seats.
Those interested in the lounge seats are asked to contact the university’s ticket office.