April 27, 2004
Ticket Price Survey
AL EastLast week I identified some of the problems with the "Fan Cost Index" developed by Team Marketing Report. One of the biggest issues, TMR's use of average ticket prices to calculate how much a typical family of four could expect to pay to see a game, has to be addressed on a team-by-team basis. This is the first of six articles that will do so. I'm starting with the AL East.
My hypothetical customers decide a few weeks in advance which game they plan to attend, then shop for tickets on MLB.com. To keep the methodology constant, I'm ignoring any special knowledge I may have about a particular stadium's seats, seating and ticketing policies, and relying entirely on what I can find on MLB.com.
For each game, I looked for four types of tickets. The most important, for these purposes, is a block of four "casual fan" seats--the ones that Team Marketing Report's hypothetical family would probably sit in. In checking out the options, I used my own seating preferences; in particular, I'd rather have a better angle on the action from the upper deck than a seat closer to the diamond but far down the lines. I went through the ticketing process up to the point where I was asked for my credit card, taking note of the service charges and processing fees that magically appeared along the way. (Since Team Marketing Report doesn't count these, neither did I.)
Then I repeated the process three more times. Twice I shopped for the "best available seats," as determined by the MLB.com ticket computer, once for a family of four and once for a single fan. The seats available for the family of four serve as a rough proxy for the club's season-ticket and advance sales, while the best single-seat option shows where a fan who doesn't care about the cost can sit without paying scalpers' prices. Finally, I searched for the best available seat in the cheapest section, the least a fan going through MLB.com could pay to get into the ballpark.
Next I scoured club Web sites for promotions that could reduce the cost of my hypothetical fan's attendance. For these purposes I excluded deals available only to members of particular groups (e.g., students, senior citizens, active duty military), and those available only as part of multi-game packages, but counted those with minimal eligibility requirements that the general public can easily meet (e.g., buying tickets with MasterCard, discount with coupon from local newspaper). Then I checked the club's promotional schedule for weird events and giveaways. Finally, I put it all together, as set forth below:
Average ticket price: $22.56 (9th in majors). 2003 attendance: 62.9% of capacity (12th in majors)
Tickets available on April 20 for Wednesday, May 5 night game against the Chicago White Sox:
Four "casual fan" seats: Section 334, Row KK, Seats 1-4 (Upper Boxes directly behind home plate): $20 each face value
Mondays and Wednesdays: MasterCard promotion: four Upper Reserve seats, four hats and a program for $44
Overview: The most "normal" team in a division of extremes. Families will pay less than Team Marketing Report thinks they will--less than half as much, if they come during the week and take advantage of the club's regular promotions.
Boston Red Sox
Average ticket price: $40.77 (1st in majors). 2003 attendance: 100.2% of capacity (1st in majors)
Tickets available on April 20 for Wednesday, May 12 night game against the Cleveland Indians:
Four "casual fan" seats: Standing room general admission: $20/person
"Red Sox Replay" allows season-ticket holders to resell their seats (at face value plus a transaction fee) through the club Web site. You can't even browse the listings without paying a $49.95 membership fee. The cheapest block of four seats available through stubhub.com for this game was $53/seat for four seats (face value $27 each) in Section 7, Row 2 of the grandstand, in the right field corner.
Overview: Despite charging 40% more than anyone else for their tickets, the Red Sox will sell out the 2004 season. They don't need marketing or promotions.
New York Yankees
Average ticket price: $24.86 (4th in majors). 2003 attendance: 77.7% of capacity (6th in majors)
Tickets available on April 20 for Tuesday, May 11 night game against the Anaheim Angels:
Four "casual fan" seats: Tier 8, Row M, Seats 1-4 (Tier Reserved, behind home plate): $14 each [discounted from usual $20 day of game, see below]
All seats $2-$10 cheaper when purchased before the day of the game
DON'T MISS: Yankees Ice Tray Night, sponsored by Dunkin Donuts, June 4.
Overview: No bargains in The Bronx, where the Yankees have already sold almost 3 million tickets for the 2004 season, but even George Steinbrenner makes mid-week games more affordable. Buy before the day of the game if you can.
Tampa Bay Devil Rays
Average ticket price: $16.82 (22nd in majors). 2003 attendance: 28.9% of capacity (30th in majors)
Tickets available on April 20 for Wednesday, May 12 night game against Texas Rangers (a "Value Game"):
Four "casual fan" seats: Section 300, Row F, Seats 5-8 (Upper Reserve, directly behind home plate): $7/seat
19 Prime Games (all home games against Yankees, Red Sox, Giants): tickets scaled from $9 to $90; infield upper reserve $15
I'M SORRY I MISSED: Don Zimmer Fan Mask giveaway [warning: pop-up] [warning #2: it's an image of Don Zimmer], April 7.
Overview: When the best seats in your ballpark are available to the general public in blocks of four, you've got serious attendance issues. Casual fans will spend more on food and drink than they do to get in.
Toronto Blue Jays
Average ticket price: $17.87 (U.S.) (16th in majors). 2003 attendance: 44.0% of capacity (26th in majors)
Tickets available on April 20 for Wednesday, May 5 night game against Kansas City Royals (all prices in Canadian dollars):
Four "casual fan" seats: Section S524B, Row 4, Seats 103-106 (Skydeck level, directly behind home plate): $9 CDN/seat
17 Prime Games (Opening Day and summer weekends): tickets scaled from $9 to $62; Field Level Baseline seats $26
5 and 7 game Flex Packs: no blackouts, no seat restrictions, choose your own games. Both offer a free ticket to the June 27 game against the Expos and an opportunity to buy playoff tickets before the general public. The seven-game pack also includes a second free ticket to a game of your choice, a Carlos Delgado bobblehead, and two upgrades to field level infield seats.
DON'T MISS: Shower curtain giveaway, May 9.
Overview: The Blue Jays are a bargain even without adjusting for the exchange rate.