This season has gotten off to a very good start for the Boston sports teams who play their home games at TD Garden. The Celtics are 17-3 and have the best record in the NBA. Coming off a sixteen game win streak, their popularity has soared to a level that we haven’t seen since the 1980’s. The Bruins are coming off a four game win streak after a 4-3 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins yesterday. While the Bruins are certainly not even close the Celtics level, if the season ended today, they would be in the playoffs and they’re building up a young core. So, all should be good at TD Garden, right?
TD Garden’s fan experience is on the decline. In a sports city where two sports franchises do an outstanding job of putting the fans first, it needs to a be a priority. Fenway Park is over 100 years old. Yet, the renovations and perks for the fans have made it a fun experience for all fans. It’s even gotten to the point where many fans are more interested in the experience itself over the actual game. That’s not always a good thing, but that’s a story for a different day. Gillette Stadium is the elite sports experience for Boston fans. It’s not just because of the winning either. Gillette Stadium offers a wide range of entertainment and perks for fans. The Kraft’s get it. They value the common fan and they know how crucial that experience is to their business.
TD Garden currently ranks third in terms of places most common fans would like to watch a game in the Boston area and it’s not necessarily because of the two teams playing in it. Granted, being indoors works against the experience, but there’s more to it than that.
Here are four examples of why TD Garden’s fan experience in on the decline.
1. Entry into arena. As you already know if you have been to a game this year, there’s construction all around the entrances of the building. There are two entrances. On one side, fans need to wait outside in a temporary tunnel as commuters crowd the tunnel on their way in and out of North Station. Want to take a pass on that? Go over to the other side where you’re asked to wait outside next to concrete walls as incoming traffic comes in and out of the building. “Move to the side, please!” It takes one experience to realize that as you’re asked to move, you shouldn’t lean up against the walls that are covered in concrete dust. A black coat turns gray. Once they finally get the line moving an hour before the game, there are long waits. This brings us to…
2. Increased wait times though security checks. Every fan should want the very best when it comes to security nowadays and that’s certainly the case here. With that said, the checks at TD Garden need a lot of work. They’re much longer than Fenway and Gillette. Why? There isn’t enough room for thousands of people on the second floor where the checks are being done. Since there isn’t room, the people waiting outside are asked to hold while fans clear out from the security area. The result: More fans standing in the cold in a temporary tunnel with peak pedestrian traffic or hugged up against the dusty concrete wall. Fun!
3. Pro Shop moved. Now it’s time to hit the Pro Shop before the game. But, wait! Is there enough time to shop considering that the gates don’t open until one hour before the game? The Pro Shop was moved from the first floor to the second. Therefore, you now have to get through security to get there. The Pro Shop appears to be smaller than the old one. This means that more people are rushing into a smaller space before the game. On a positive note, there are several lines and they move quickly. It’s just very tough to get around and there’s a rush to get in and out.
4. No cash accepted. Want a hot dog, popcorn, or slice of pizza? Or how about a bottle of water for $4.75? Credit or debit card, please! That’s right, you can’t purchase items with cash at the game. Here’s hoping this is isolated to TD Garden and Gillette/Fenway do not follow. Not only can you not pay with cash, once you swipe your card, it prompts you to add a gratuity. The options are 15%, 20%, or 25%. The process beginning to end takes time making lines and wait times much longer.
In summary, TD Garden has made some changes, but they aren’t changes that put the fans first. Perhaps, the people making these decisions should get some advice from Bob Kraft, John Henry, and co.