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?