What Are We Doing

A baseball game at Shea Stadium

Today I’m raising a question for which I don’t really have an answer.  I guess it’s more of an observation and perhaps we can all figure out the answer together.

I’ve spent a good number of years in the sports business.  I love it because it’s a business about which people are passionate, both the folks who work in it and the fans who consume it.  But lately I’ve asked myself what we’re doing to those fans and I had a conversation the other day which really raised my level of concern.

My brother and cousin are passionate Mets fans who took their first trip to the new Citi Field for a game.  It’s a beautiful place, and a huge improvement over Shea Stadium, to which they’d journey multiple times each year to see the Amazin’s.  But this will be their only visit to the new park. Why?  Because it cost almost $100 a ticket.  Plus food.  Plus parking.  Plus bevvies.  While they were there, they went to the window and looked into another game – almost $50 to sit in Uecker seats – last row of the nosebleeds.  Clearly, the cost/value equation has gone completely out of balance, especially when one factors in the economy.
“I loved it but that was my last game.”  I heard the same thing from a hard-core Yankees fan over the weekend – great facility but their last game because they can’t afford it.  The Yankees lowering the prices of the best seats to only $1,500 a game seems more like a “let them eat cake” move than a response to fan outrage.

Sports is supposed to be mass-market and one can’t charge premium prices for that.  You can rebrand the experience to make it more “upscale” but unless the product quality is enhanced in a big way and provides, more importantly, better value for consumers in areas that are very important to THEM, you will be in danger of failing.  Yes, the new parks are upgrades and provide a better experience but based on the responses I’m hearing from hard-core fans, not to an extent that would warrant the huge price increases, especially if the team is so-so.  Sad that the emphasis becomes on winning over the enjoyment of the experience at the game itself.

So what are we doing?  I know the economics are broken.  How can we fix them?  We can rant about greedy owners and overpaid players but that’s not fixing it.  What is?

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6 responses to “What Are We Doing

  1. Go-Rilla

    As the ‘little brother’ of Ritman, I readily admit to being a lifelong Mets fan. Yes Carl, I will watch the Amazins until the cows come home (or at least until they come off the disabled list). I used to have a Sunday ticket plan; even in the cesspool of Shea Stadium, it was a pleasant enough experience.

    It is not like the owners of the Mets put up large sums of monies to have Taxpayer Field built; it is mainly financed by the taxpayers of New York. The owners get an improved place for them to generate more money. I had no problem paying $50 a ticket for nice seats at Shea to see the Mets play any other opponent. Now with ‘premium’ pricing [platinum,gold,silver,bronze,budget] a bronze game cost $100 a ticket to sit in the third level behind first base. Imagine how much that ticket is when it is a premium game!

    I know the timing could not have been worse for the Mets and Yankees; they needed this economic downturn like a hole in the head. One would think the business model would tell them to think about their pricing for 2009. Instead, the Yankees and Mets have only sold out Opening Day.

    So I will cheer from the comfort of my sofa, and root for the Metsies.

    • Not to pat all of us on the back, but I thought you’d find these stats of interest:

      MLB is averaging 29,210 fans per game through last night, off 6.8% from the same period a year ago. Excluding the Yankees and Mets, who are in new ballparks with smaller capacities, 10 clubs are seeing double-digit declines in average attendance, led by the Tigers and Nationals, who are both down close to 27% from a year ago

  2. unchecked labor costs have broken a lot of businesses (and gov’ts), it’s why Unions are formed…….and on and on…..it’s always a Q of balance. btw, your old world of rights fees escalation is a central point here…….even if “WE” never buy a ticket, but willingly consume the content on whatever platform….the owners of that content benefit financially and feed the beast….a vicious circle…..your mates got off the train of buying game day tix, but they’ll watch the Amazin’s ’till the cows conme home.

  3. ritman….your bro not withstanding, new stadia means new debt means increasing debt service costs means overall cost structure is out of whack ! DUH!!, sounds like the gov’t, eh?? is this a NY thing? A new stadium thing? Or the Billionaire owners pushing the envelope on the elasticity of pricing pershable inventory…….btw, compare this…justt went to Dodger Stadium v Phillies…..right field bleachers, all the Dodger dogs you can eat plus unending soda re-fills….for $32 per tikcet incl those TM fees….still value out in a major market and a winner to boot.

    • No question that SOMETHING is out of whack, Cat-man. In NY, city is putting up a TON of the cost of the new stadia – didn’t mitigate ticket prices a bit. The Dodger deal is a good one and not atypical of what clubs are doing. Frankly, I don’t look at those sorts of things as long-term solutions. It’s easy to say the owners are greedy – they’ll tell you it’s because they pay the players too much, which they do because of the media pressure to win. Guess it’s all OUR fault!

  4. Donna Chiarella-Delia

    More people are going to the minor league games. They enjoy the experience just the same and pay much less….so maybe they like it more!

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