Ticket sales were off the charts and the buying process ran a lot more smoothly during the popular Polar Bear Plate (PBP) junior/juvenile hockey tournament in Rankin Inlet from Feb. 20 to 23.
PBP committee spokesperson Kandace Graham said more than 800 weekend passes were sold on Feb. 20 alone.
She said having the new arena definitely opens the doors for more people to travel to Rankin Inlet again to watch the highly rated tournament.
“Only having a maximum capacity of 503 in our previous arena deterred people from coming to Rankin to attend big tournaments because, even after travelling all that way, there was just no guarantee that you were going to be able to get in and watch a hockey game,” said Graham.
“This was our first big weekend when we were actually selling passes to get into the arena for a tournament, so, ultimately, it was a learning process for us.
“We had no maximum allowable number of tickets a person could buy this time, and we found people were only buying the number of passes that they needed.
“I’m speaking solely for the PBP, and there’s no guarantee that the people on the Terence Tootoo Memorial committee will do things the same way for that tournament.”
The situation could get tense when PBP tickers went on sale at the old Singiituq Complex arena, with arguments breaking out, people trying to jump the line, some buying tickets solely to scalp at higher prices during the weekend and hundreds of fans leaving disappointed when tickets ran out before their position in line was reached.
Graham said everybody rushed to buy tickets for the PBP at the old arena because everyone knew there weren’t going to be enough tickets to go around with a capacity of only 503.
She said now that there’s a capacity of more than 1,000, things are much more relaxed during the selling process.
“Fans in Rankin are pretty good for attending almost every game during a tournament, so having large crowds are the norm throughout a tournament weekend,” she said.
“The first night (Feb. 20) I would say there were near 700 people in the arena constantly between five and 10 p.m.
“In fact, the parking lot was a little crazy at the end of the night when you had between 500 and 700 people in a mad rush to leave the arena all at once.”
Graham said another great thing about the new arena is that it’s not as crowded for the fans, even when a game is a sellout.
She said it’s nice to actually have some breathing space, even when the new arena is sold to capacity.
“The way the bleachers are set-up in the new arena, there’s a minimum of a one-foot gap between you and the person in front of you.
“There’s a lot more space now and we’re not packed-in like sardines anymore.
“In the old arena you were always touching the person in front of you and behind you.
“So, it’s nice to have a little more comfort and a bit of personal space now in the new arena even when, as usual, every game in the tournament is a sellout or near to it.”