When I happened to catch this story earlier this week on Cleveland.com, I can’t say I was surprised. After the Indians fully implemented their dynamic pricing plan last season, I didn’t expect it to go away anytime soon. Although I did question at one point last season whether or not it was suppressing attendance, it really doesn’t matter. Despite the fact that the Indians had the third lowest attendance in the majors in 2013, that their attendance figures dropped overall from 2012, they managed to make more money. In addition to the increased profits, more than 90% of season ticket holders retained their ticket plans for 2014. The jokes about nearly empty ballparks are probably easier to take when you’re still making money.
So when single-game tickets go on sale to the general public on March 3 (you must register online for the sale in advance), it’s supposedly the lowest you’ll see prices this season. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the Indians seem less concerned with walk-up crowds and would rather have more advanced sales. I remember a number of years where I decided to go to a few games outside of my quarter season ticket plan, and purchased tickets as a walk-up at the last minute. Unless you got there really early, you could expect to wait in a fairly decent sized line – especially if it was a nice evening. You could always get a decent deal and a decent seat; the crowds of the 1990s haven’t been seen for a number of years. I decided to do a walk-up purchase once or twice last season, and walk-up I did…even right before game time there was basically no line. I was actually kind of shocked by the prices. I sit in the outfield reserved, and in my ticket package games average about $21-$23 per game for most of the season. That same general area on game day? It was $45-$55 the two times I purchased tickets on the same day.
Since basically all teams are implementing this dynamic pricing structure (or will in the very near future), I don’t really hold it against the Indians for using it. And hey, if they’re making more money with it then I’m sure it can be deemed a success. One of the faults of last season, in my mind, was that it wasn’t really explained to the general public very well. I saw a lot of people express either shock or confusion when they arrived at the park on game day, that felt like they were being bled dry. I had an out-of-town Indians fan visiting on the spur of the moment, and they wanted to head to the game that night. While they weren’t furious over the prices, they did jokingly remark that they hadn’t really spent that kind of money outside of a playoff game before.
Again though, the system benefits those that buy season ticket plans or purchase their tickets early. My prices have been pretty consistent over the past few years, although they are giving less perks to the partial season ticket plan folks. (For a few years, we managed to get extra opening day tickets and a set of club seats for a game tossed in for no additional cost). We still pay considerably less money per game, particularly during the warmer summer months when prices spike.
It will be interesting to see what the 2014 attendance figures will look like. Will they rise, as people ride the success of the 2013 season and the Wild Card appearance into 2014? Or will the lack of activity this offseason drive numbers lower? Or will none of those factors matter, and it’s just going to be what it’s going to be? Fortunately (not that you’d know it from the weather outside) we’re just over a month away from finding out.