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Knicks, Rangers ticket prices go up again

By Patrick Dunne

The Madison Square Garden Company thought it had timed its announcement last week of ticket price increases for the New York Knicks and New York Rangers just right. If you're going to tell fans about price hikes for next season, at least it comes as the Rangers have the best record in the NHL's Eastern Conference and the Knicks are surging behind the sudden popularity of Jeremy Lin.

So much for timing.

Since MSG announced the 4.9 percent price increase for the Knicks and 9.5 percent hike for the Rangers for 2012-13 season tickets, the Linsanity phenomenon has fizzled — leading to the departure of coach Mike D'Antoni — and the Rangers are fighting off a strong challenge atop the East from the Pittsburgh Penguins.

The two Garden tenants reached the playoffs together last year for the first time since 1997. That success, along with paying for the three-year, nearly $1 billion renovation of the building itself, prompted another well-timed announcement of ticket price increases last spring for this season. Knicks' tickets went up a whopping 49 percent and Rangers' tickets 23 percent.

Another postseason double dip looked like a lock a month ago after Lin burst onto the scene. Lately, the Knicks haven't resembled a playoff contender. Knicks owner James Dolan and D'Antoni mutually agreed to end the coach's sometimes turbulent three-and-half-year tenure in New York on Wednesday, March 14, after the team lost six in a row and eight out of 10.

Behind Lin, the Knicks had moved above .500 and into the Eastern Conference playoff race. This latest slide dropped them one game out of the final playoff spot and left guard Carmelo Anthony — who was injured and wasn't playing when Lin first emerged — sulking, denying reports that he'd like to be traded, and clashing with D'Antoni. It was just a year ago that Anthony came to New York in a blockbuster trade with the Denver Nuggets and signed a three-year, $65 million contract extension with the Knicks.

It appears that in a conflict between the coach and the high-priced superstar, the Knicks sided with Anthony. With D'Antoni out, assistant coach Mike Woodson was named interim head coach.

According to CNBC, hours after the Knicks parted ways with their coach, they sent out emails asking season ticket holders to pay for playoff tickets by March 28 and buy season tickets by April 2 get a 10 percent discount on playoff tickets.

The Knicks already have the highest face value average ticket price in the NBA at $117.47 and traditionally have some of the highest secondary market prices. Those skyrocketed after Lin, signed by the Knicks in December after being cut by two NBA teams, was inserted into the lineup. His record-setting performance led the team to nine victories in his first 12 games as a starter. Suddenly, regular season Knicks games at the Garden were fetching ticket prices of $400 to $500 on the secondary market.

The once-obscure Taiwanese-American guard from Harvard had become a cultural icon, with his impact even being felt in MSG's stock price, which climbed to a record-high $33.18 in mid-February. The success of Lin and the Knicks led to MSG settling its dispute with Time Warner Cable that had kept MSG Network, which broadcast Knicks and Rangers games, unavailable for more than 2 million Time Warner subscribers in the New York area. A market for Lin merchandise was born and flourished, helping make up for losses from a lockout-shortened NBA season.

As for the Rangers, the Blueshirts have had one of their best regular seasons in recent years. Behind the solid goaltending of Henrik Lundqvist and scoring of Marian Gaborik, the Rangers have been at or near the top of the Eastern Conference all season. They hope to reverse a recent history of playoff disappointments this spring. New York hasn't won a playoff series since 2008 and last won the Stanley Cup in 1994.

The Rangers have the eighth-highest face value average ticket price in the NHL at $66.20. Among U.S. NHL teams, they're the second-highest behind only the Philadelphia Flyers ($68.89). Like the Knicks, Rangers tickets are among the most expensive on the secondary market.

An MSG press release didn't detail what sections would see specific increases but said there would be 23 different prices for Rangers tickets next season and 22 prices for the Knicks. MSG said most of the price increases next season would be concentrated in the upper-bowl seats, which will undergo a renovation this summer. The first phase of the nearly $1 billion Garden renovation project was completed last fall 2011 and focused mainly on the lower bowl.

The incline of the seats in the upper bowl will be increased by 17 percent, which MSG says will improve sightlines and bring fans closer to the action. Some season seat locations in the 300 and 400 levels will have to be moved because of the renovations, which include the addition of 58 new suites between the lower and upper bowl, new concessions, amenities, and expanded concourses.

The deadline for Rangers' season ticket renewals is May 11 and Knicks' renewals is May 18.

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