12 March 2009

Hall To Fans: Let Them Eat Cake

As MLB teams deliver creative, tangible discounts, Derrick Hall continues to deliver little more than empty sermons on affordability.

Here's how some teams are actually enticing fans, with more than a line and a smile (hat tip: AZ Snakepit):

  • The ever uber-demand Yankees, boasting a glittering new park, introduced $5 tickets.

  • The Blue Jays, with an empty seat problem similar to the Dbacks, now offer 81 games in the upper deck for $95 - that's $1.17 per game, in one of North America's largest, moneyed metros.

  • The Brewers and Braves, midmarket teams that outdrew Arizona, now sell dollar seats, according to USA Today.

  • The Astros, who also outdrew AZ and play in a larger, higher income market, offer a ten pack for just $70. Compare with Arizona's upper deck Ten Pack, starting at $120 (I was billed $173.50 for mine, which I immediately cancelled.)

  • The Twins are having fun with the recession, tying daily ticket prices to the stock market. What used to be $21 seats are going for $6-7.

How have the Dbacks responded?

1. Their 10 pack, which I've praised in the past as a flexible price bridge between season tickets and single games, is more expensive than ever, at odds with Hall's "most affordable commitment"- and rather astonishing given the economic climate.

2. On Opening Day at The Lovely Morgan, two seats in the vast upper deck Infield Reserve run you $50 online. These are not box seats hugging the rail. Outrageous for an Opener? Maybe not, but several NL teams ask less for comparable seats, including the Braves, who charge $35.05 inclusive, a whopping 30% less than our self-described "most affordable" franchise.

3. In addition to raising prices, USA Today reports the Dbacks took grim note of the spiraling economy, and in an edict that must delight Marie Antoinette's ghost, "will invite fans to bring their own food to the ballpark." Hall, the communications Svengali most responsible for a half empty stadium, is now "inviting" people to bring their own food - something they've always been allowed to do. What windfall can a strapped populace expect next from Paradise Valley's Pied Piper of Affordability? A cheerful offer to walk to games in July, to save on fuel and parking?

This uncommonly useless "invite" could fool a few Phoenicians to buy overpriced tix they otherwise wouldnt, but brown bagging upper deck patrons also require fewer support staff (vendors, concessionaires, cleanup). This is classic Derrick - saving the club bucks and peddling it as some illusory fan "benefit". Maybe we wont have to walk to games in the searing summer, but expect a healthy walk if you want a soda or dog in the upper deck -that concourse may largely shut down, like it was late 2004, when Kendrick slashed point of sale services.

To be fair, it's still twenty six days til gameday. At this point, however, I've decided not to buy seats until prices better reflect the real market - especially considering Mr Hall has hinted at attractive deals. I imagine a lack of sales revenue as much as any concerted marketing "plan" will generate more realistic offers as the year progresses - as in previous seasons.

Perhaps not in April, when an unusually high profile home schedule should dramatically bolster the gate. But soon enough. Mr Hall has stood out from MLB peers, brimming with optimism about seasonal attendance - he says it looks flat, or possibly up slightly from last year. While it's too early to call his bluff, preliminary indications on the ticketing web pages and elsewhere - at these prices - suggest Mr Hall may be eating his cake before customers are having any of it.

Song of the Day - Show Me (My Fair Lady)

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