That photo collage up there — click it to enlarge — shows the view I had yesterday afternoon. Mike and I were sitting in the Grandstand between right field and first base, and we had an excellent view of the mostly empty lower deck. I snapped those photos in the bottom of the first, and the seats never filled in.
For the Yankees, this was just another in a weekend series of disappointingly attended games. The official announced attendance on Sunday was 43,068, and most of that crowd was sitting in seats other than the most expensive ones behind the plate.
Already, bloggers and beat writers are having a field day with this latest development at new Yankee Stadium. Ross at New Stadium Insider compared the empty seats to Madison Square Garden and Pete Abraham’s first mailbag touched upon the issue as well.
The Yankees are seemingly ignoring reality. “We’re actually very pleased, based on the history of reduced attendance for the second game of the year,” Yanks’ President Randy Levine said to Tyler Kepner. “We significantly exceeded even the last year of Yankee Stadium.”
The only problem with Levine’s statement is that it’s not true. The Yanks drew over 48,000 for the second game at Yankee Stadium last year and just 45,000 this year.
In a short post, the Yanks Fan half of YFSF touched upon this issue as well. How can the Yanks, he writes, justify filling under 80 percent of their brand-spankin’-new ballpark in just its fourth day of life?
The problem boils down to Yankee economics. The Yanks have significantly jacked up the ticket prices while the country suffers through one of the worst economic downturns since the Great Depression. I wonder, though, if the current economy has little to do with it. Rather, I think the Yankees may have simply priced themselves out of the baseball ticket market.
Last year’s ticket prices — available here as a PDF — show expensive but not unreasonable prices. The seats right behind home plate now priced at around $1800 a game used to cost $250 for season-ticket holders and $400 for gameday seats. Tickets that used to cost between $85-$135 for season-ticket packages now cost $325 per seat per game. Those differences are not insignificant in any economy.
As the Yankees play out the season under the current pricing schedule, the team will have to reassess how it prices the best seats in the new stadium. The Yankees want to cater to the riches of the rich, but do those people want to spend their money on the Yanks? It’s hard to say. The team alleges that 80 percent of those seats are sold, but if 80 percent of them remain empty game after game, what benefit do the Yankees get?
For the rest of the year, the team has few options. They can’t lower their prices without spurring on a full-fledged season-ticket holder revolt. They could attempt to put some of these primo seats on StubHub via the ticket site’s auctions to better assess their market value. For now, though, we may have to get used to the shocking and discouraging views of numerous empty seats near the field level while the Grandstand and bleachers remain packed.