What Does $4-Gallon Gas Mean to the New York Islanders?

Dee Karl@@7thWomanSenior Analyst IMay 12, 2008

So, what does four dollars a gallon for gas mean to the New York Islanders?

A lot!

Probably just as much as it means to the rest of the “Islanders” on this island.

The financial news I read every day on MSN is more frightening than any Stephen King novel I’ve thumbed through. We are in trouble.

Gas has crept up to the four dollar mark, and is only slightly cheaper than a gallon of milk. The worst part though, is that, Long Island actually accounts for 33 per cent of the sub-prime loan mess that now has so many of our locals in foreclosure.

How do you market entertainment in such a dire financial climate? Especially one that has such a hefty price-tag?

Granted, the Nassau and Suffolk County unemployment rates are currently still under five per cent, but no one is safe, and so many of us are actually just a few paychecks away from being homeless. Wheat has skyrocketed, food prices are in double digit increases, and our oil driven way of life is in jeopardy.

Long Island has always seemed to outsiders as totally affluent, Hampton’s estates, waterfront mansions, just luxury unending. It is a lie. The median household income in Nassau County is 82,959 dollars while Suffolk has a much lower 72,112 dollars in household income.

Considering the cost of necessities these days, how do you successfully market diversionary entertainment that will set an average family of four back about 200 dollars for the evening? Well, How?

During the dark days of the great depression the Movie industry flourished. Everyone needed the diversion. However, it only set you back about the price of a loaf of bread and maybe some cheese. It wasn’t the price of a car payment.

Even a baseball game didn’t set anyone back so much that they couldn’t eat that day, and that was live sports entertainment. But that was then –this is now. And with spiraling inflation, the average Joe is stuck in the middle. The Love of Sports, and the Love of having a roof over one’s head.

The “typical” affluent Long Islander has lost thousands in the stock market, they have clients who have defaulted and their real estate has depreciated by at least 12 per cent. While they may not be crying poverty just yet, they are going to be tight with the cash they have left.

So how do you get them to part with anywhere from 2200 dollars per season seat to 4400 dollars per season-seat? (This is not premium seating) Add the seven dollars a game for parking and then anything else you may want to enjoy while you’re at the game, and you’re in for sticker shock. Think of it.

On the high end, each season ticket is about five per cent of that annual median income. So if you are a single earner household (ha ha! Like THAT’S possible on this Island!) and you have a family of four; you’d be in for 20% of your annual income for tickets to a season’s worth of entertainment.

Too much? Then it’s about three per cent of the Suffolk median income if you go for the really cheap seats. Still got a family of four? That’s 12% of your per capita income. Hope the kids don’t want ice cream and cotton candy because that will set you back a bundle.

When I started talking to my Blog Box buddies about these stats this morning, I was teased with “Well, ain’t YOU just little Mary Sunshine this morning?” But I couldn’t help it.

While I was thinking about this week’s edition of “Come to the Coliseum and see what we have to offer” I wondered what in heaven’s name would they be able to offer to counter this economic downturn.

I can’t buy a season’s package if I can’t pay my mortgage or my rent on time. Sure, I can drop it down to a partial package, but how much of a financial commitment can I make when I’m not even sure how long I will keep my job?

Before the end of the season, the Islanders offered a two-year loyalty plan with price incentives. Good deal, if you can afford it. NHL franchises live and die by Season Ticket sales, and I’m sure that things are bad all over.

However, when simply GETTING to work is cost prohibitive, how do we budget for GETTING to the arena? Is it a luxury we can afford? The Long Island mass transit system is pitiful.

I am dependant on my car that gets only 24 miles to the gallon, while my spouse’s truck gets a whopping 12 mpg. If I can afford my tickets, can I afford to drive there 42 times in seven months? My head hurts, even more than my wallet.

The Islanders’ marketing team is looking to sell 10 thousand Season Tickets for this upcoming season. I wish them luck. Maybe they should give out gas cards with those tickets as an incentive.

Because, unless our oil-driven economy get’s some relief, there will be an entire segment of us “Islanders” whose entertainment will consist of watching our big screens on our overpriced cable service and our fine dining will be limited to Burger King value meals.

I think we have a problem here with no easy answer.