The Red Deer Rebels are expecting over 4,000 fans at the Peavey Mart Centrium for the home opener Saturday night. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)

The Red Deer Rebels are expecting over 4,000 fans at the Peavey Mart Centrium for the home opener Saturday night. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)

Red Deer Rebels expecting a big crowd for home opener

Rebels expect over 4,000 fans Saturday

The Red Deer Rebels are gearing up to hit the ice for their home opener Saturday night at the Peavey Mart Centrium and are expecting a big fan turnout to cheer on the team for another season.

Senior Vice-President of the club Merrick Sutter said ticket sales have been positive and have kept pace with what sales were like during the spring.

“Home opener usually has a fairly strong gameday walk up so we should be on par where we were in the spring last year. Hopefully over 4,000,” he said.

Sutter admitted it’s tough to compare to previous opening games because of the last two years being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic but said they had really strong walkup ticket sales once restrictions were lifted last season. In terms of selling tickets, Sutter said sports teams are essentially starting from scratch with how the public is attending events, and how they’re buying tickets.

“We don’t really compare especially now coming out of the pandemic but I’d say we’re pleased with where we’re at,” he said.

Sutter explained they’ve changed up how they do some of their game packages including nine-game packages, snowbird packages, and corporate packages to reflect the buying habits of fans. They’ll have different promotions going on throughout the year and work with groups they haven’t been able to work with in the last two years.

There is excitement around the team this year as the Rebels begin their long road to compete for the Western Hockey League Championship this weekend. Sutter said much like last season there is a buzz around the facility and expects it to continue.

“This year the advantage we have is we can invite lots of groups back whereas we were very limited last year. Lots of schools and minor hockey teams and those sorts of things whereas now we’re sort of able to think outside the box again… We’re really anticipating a fun vibe in the arena,” he said.

Sutter said they’ve sold smaller season ticket packages than they have in years past and walkup/ single game ticket sales within the last few days have gone way up, which has continued on since restrictions were lifted in the spring.

“Those trends were 15 to 20 per cent higher than they had been before the pandemic so we’re still trying to understand what that data means… The data for us and the data across the league and even our counterparts in the NHL tells us that buying habits have shifted. That means we have to shift how we promote,” Sutter said.

However, seeing an increase in single-game tickets he said is positive in a lot of ways. They’ve always encouraged these games to be a social experience, and for the casual fan, it’s an inexpensive ticket. Westerner Park has also changed its food and beverage offering as fans can get everything from chicken wings to baby back ribs and premium cocktails.

“We’re really trying to tailor to there’s something for everyone. You can stand up and watch a game at the new drink ledges, you can sit down in your seat, and you can go to the thirst and hunger lounge at the end. It’s really like giving people different areas and different ways they can enjoy the game. That’s where that walkup crowd they’re making a social decision at the last minute so you give them a space that is enjoyable,” he added.

During the Red Deer Advocate home opener at 7 p.m. fans who are attending the game are asked to bring new socks to donate to the Mustard Seed and Youth HQ.

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