I’m in Cleveland for the weekend to visit family and was planning on going down to the Tribe game tonight. I moved to Cincinnati two years and missed out on going to a game last season for the first time in over 20 years, so I was looking forward to getting back to The Jake.
During the 2010 and 2011 seasons I was going to graduate school at John Carroll and attended many games in the cheap seats, usually buying $12 tickets a day or two before the game. So you can imagine my surprise when I tried to buy tickets for tonight’s game and was greated a minimum price of $26.
My first reaction was to go back and make sure I had the right game. When I did, I noticed that it was Dollar Dog Night and my assumption was that they raise the prices since they expect a larger crowd. This makes sense, and I wouldn’t really fault them for raising the prices a few times each season for promotional events.
But when I tossed this theory out on Twitter I was informed by one of my followers, @ZABZC, that their ticket prices actually rise closer to the game and bleacher seats can (at least according to @ZABZC) reach $40.
This news made me even more frustrated. So I again voiced my opinion on Twitter, which generated a response from the Indians (presumably someone working in the PR and/or social media department)…
A couple thoughts on the ticket pricing model and the Indians’ response…
First… The model makes perfect economic sense. Weeks in advance the buyer has options. So you want to make the price low enough that they’re interested in considering an Indians game as a way to spend a summer night. The day of the game, however, the Indians have the buyer trapped. They obviously want to go to this specific game and have limited time and options to find cheaper seats. The Indians can raise the price and some people will still pay.
Second… The model makes zero PR sense. No wonder the stadium remained close to empty throughout much of September last year. The team was hot and in the playoff hunt and it should have led to increased ticket sales throughout the entire second half of the season. But if the prices are raised to $27 to $40 for bleacher seats, the Indians have cut out a significant chunk of their fan base.
I know as a grad student I wouldn’t have been going to games if I couldn’t get in for under $15, and I’m sure many in my situation as well as families needing four or more tickets felt the same way.
In September 2013 the Indians averaged 17,096 fans per game. In September 2012 (when they went 68-94), the team averaged 15,934. That’s not representative of the response we know Cleveland sports fans have to winning teams.
Third… I give credit to whoever responded to my tweet. In the past five years or so I’ve felt like the Indians PR and fan relations has been outstanding. Their promotions are among the best in all of baseball and the team and players seem more visible and accessible than the Browns or Cavs. Whoever responded to my comments more than likely has no control over the ticket pricing model, but they’re the ones that have to do damage control when fans get upset. I wouldn’t be surprised if my status as a Indians blogger prompted their response, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if they spend time responding to similar comments from fans on a regular basis. Despite the prices, the Indians do clearly care about the fans.
Overall, the Indians can’t afford to continue to alienate fans like this. They rank dead last in average attendance this year with 2,000 fewer fans per game than the next worst (Rays) and 5,000 fewer per game than the third worst (White Sox). I can only image what September’s attendance will look like if they fall apart and trade Asdrubal and Masterson…