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Cashing in on Nostalgia. Cashing in on the New. PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Tuesday, 01 April 2008 20:21

Maury BrownIn America, the marriage of baseball and nostalgia can make for an intoxicating blend, and rightfully so. Baseball seems to bring us back to days with family and friends, and “the good old days.”

And when it comes to saying goodbye to a ballpark that is revered, well, people far and wide will make the pilgrimage to say their final farewells.

So, it should come as no surprise that MLB owners look to cash in on stadium swan songs, if they have longevity and rank something above the Kingdome. Ballparks are sliced and diced and sold to those that wish to put a piece of history in their home or office. Along with the selling off of history, ticket prices climb with the frenzy.

To add even more green lining to the owners’ pockets, they will increase prices further when their new shiny replacement stadiums come online.

Everyone loves that “new stadium smell.”

So, it should come as no surprise that baseball’s most storied franchise is pushing the limits of just how high you can go for ticket prices for the best seats in the house. As we reported, the Yankees have increased box seat ticket prices 1029 percent since 1967 , when accounting for inflation. That hasn't curbed fans' appitites for tickets, as the Yankees report that they had already sold over 3.8 million tickets before one pitch had been thrown in Yankee Stadium.

All this will pale by comparison when the Yankees move out of the House That Ruth Built into the House That George Built.

Clyde Haberman of the New York Times contacted me about ticket rates for the New York clubs, and Tuesday, he ran the story, “In the World Series Chase, Cashing in on Hope and Nostalgia.

Yankee Stadium is already capitalizing on the expected tsunami of nostalgia. Ticket prices for the best seats are on steroids. The highest priced box seats go for $250 each, well above last season’s $150. Wait till next year. Top seats in the new stadium will cost $2,500 apiece.

The prices are “unprecedented,” said Maury Brown, president of the Business of Sports Network, an online tracker of money trends in athletics. Then again, Mr. Brown said by phone from his base in Portland, Ore., “it’s a supply-and-demand industry.” Indeed, those $2,500 seats have already been snapped up by deep-pocketed corporations and individuals.

But the writing for ordinary fans is on the wall, and has been for a while. Both new ballparks will have fewer seats than the old ones, conspicuously Citi Field, which will have a capacity of about 45,000 compared with Shea’s 57,000.

“It creates a hot ticket,” Mr. Brown said. “By placing a premium on the ticket, it becomes more valuable” to a point where it zooms well beyond the reach of average fans. Baseball, he added, is well on its way to becoming “an elitist kind of thing.”

“We’re at the point,” he said, “where the average fan is relegated to the bleachers and the upper level.” That assumes the fan is even able to find an available ticket in those outer reaches.

In fairness to ownership across the league, I did say to Haberman that inexpensive seats are still available. It’s just where you sit that has changed.

As an antidotal addition to this article, I was talking with a high-ranking sports executive this past weekend about the financial landscape of big league sports. He pointed me to his laptop where financial figures were at, and said something that I had not considered before.

As he glanced up from the screen, he said, “There is such incredible pressure by the leagues to keep increasing revenues year after year. When an opportunity presents itself, of course you’re going to take advantage if it.”

The Yankees and Mets are simply in a position to charge prices for some tickets that are cartoonish. We’ve said the same things when a player like Alex Rodriguez gets paid a salary that is larger than the entire Marlins player payroll (although this says more about how the Marlins love living on welfare).

As I said in the interview with Halberman, it’s a supply and demand industry when it comes to price points on certain tickets. It is also fueled flex packages and the now secondary ticket market. If you can’t go to all games, you can “scalp” them legally from the comfort of your own home. When it's too high is when people or corporations quit buying them. That's the glass ceiling.

But, let’s face it, the average family will find getting in a game in the lower bowl almost entirely out of reach. When you throw in the incredible mark-up on concessions and the cost of parking, well, it doesn’t seem unreasonable for me to say that baseball, much like all the major league sports, is becoming an entertainment option for the elitists.

What did you think of ticket prices? Don't forget to leave your comments. 


Maury Brown

Maury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey. He is contributor to Baseball Prospectus, and is available as a freelance writer.

Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.



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