Now Its ETickets At The Arena

GRAND RAPIDS—No more standing in line at will call. No more worries about lost or stolen tickets. No more torn stubs.

The e-ticket has arrived, or e-rived, at Van Andel Arena.

New handheld data scanners and state-of-the-art ticket-managing software are in place at the arena. Both are expected to make ticket buying and ticket tracking easier for event-goers and event managers.

TicketMaster Inc. general manager Bob Garsh told the Convention and Arena Authority last week that tickets to arena concerts and shows are now bar-coded. This means an arena customer can buy tickets on the Web, or over the phone, and have the ducats electronically sent to an e-mail address. The buyer can then print the tickets, or even e-mail a ticket to someone and then they can meet at their seats.

“We really didn’t announce it,” said Garsh, who explained that his firm installed the new technology at the arena in September. “We just turned it on.”

Garsh reported that the response to this ticket delivery method, offered at his company’s Web site as an option, has been pretty amazing. He said nearly a third of the tickets sold for the Trans-Siberian Orchestra show a few weeks ago were purchased on the Internet and sent electronically.  In all, Garsh said more than 5,000 tickets for arena events have been sold and shipped in this manner in just the past few months.

What makes this all possible is a piece of access-management software that links with and supports the TicketMaster ticketFast e-mail delivery system and the scanners.

“This really reduces the lines at the ‘will call’ window the day of an event,” said Mike Schmidt of TicketMaster, which will become fully owned by USA Interactive soon.

TicketFast delivery costs a buyer $1.75 for all the tickets purchased to an event on the Net, and $5.00 for an order placed by phone.

The handheld scanners can read the barcodes on all tickets sold. The management system only lets one legitimate ticket be sold for each seat, meaning a buyer is protected in a case of e-mail invasion and multiple printings of the tickets. The system also allows for a real-time attendance figure for an event and an exit scan so an event-goer can get back in the building. And if a ticket is lost or stolen, it can be replaced by checking the data-storage system.

“It puts a lot of power into the box office,” said Schmidt.

The savings from not having to print, handle and mail tickets is obvious for the buyer, and the arena, too.

But the real advantage for arena management is the system’s tracking capabilities. It will let them know who their frequent customers are, how many events they attend, where they sit, how often they’re no shows and what cities they’re coming from — information that was available but can now be gathered, stored and used in the arena’s marketing and advertising campaigns.

Arena general manager Rich MacKeigan told board members that the system belongs to the building and not to TicketMaster, as it was part of the five-year renewal agreement the CAA signed a few months ago with the ticket seller.

MacKeigan added that the system hasn’t been installed in DeVos Performance Hall, but said he hoped to have it there in the near future if the building’s arts tenants want it.

By the way, not all venues served by TicketMaster have the system. For instance, the Palace of Auburn Hills does, but Joe Louis Arena doesn’t.

“There is a comfort factor for everybody to have their ticket in hand,” said John Logie, CAA chairman and mayor. “I think we’re excited about this. We want to be on the cutting edge. We have one of the best facilities in the country.”

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