Missing the point on the empty seatsBy
Over the last week, we’ve extensively covered the Yankee Stadium/premium seats story. We’ve had other people’s pictures and our own pictures. We’ve received numerous e-mails on the topic, and I even appeared on TV to talk about it last night.
As momentum on this story has swelled, The Times tackled it today on the front page of the sports section. For the most part, Ken Belson’s article is a recap of events so far. He talks to Maury Brown, owner of The Biz of Baseball, and a few marketing experts about the Yanks’ PR problems. That it looks bad is a story we know well by now.
The Yankees in the article continue to push the line that the seats are sold but remain empty for various reasons. Either, as Jason over at IIATMS speculated yesterday, once-rich companies bailed out by TARP don’t want to be associated with $2500 per-game tickets at Yankee Stadium or the expensive seats don’t sell on StubHub. As bad as it looks in pictures and on TV, the Yankees, though, don’t mind the empty seats because, hey, money in the pocket.
There is, however, a few very telling pieces of information that comes out of The Times article. First, Belson reports that premium ticket prices average over $500 at new Yankee Stadium. That’s nearly in line with the maximum premium price at the old park. Second, Belson reports that the average non-premium price increased by 76 percent this year. If it seems as though everything across the board costs more, that’s because it does.
Finally, Belson drops in a great kicker of a closer line with info from Yanks’ President Randy Levine. He writes: “For next season, the Yankees plan to raise premium ticket prices 4 percent.”
That’s right; after withstanding bad press for the first five days of new Yankee Stadium’s life, the Yankees are already publicly discussing a four percent increase for 2010.
Now, there is no denying that it’s early. The Yankees could find that, come June, all of those premium seats are filled and the 20 percent — around 1000 seats in the Legends Suites — that remain unsold will find buyers. This early-season negative press will seem like a distant memory. I wouldn’t bet on it, and that top Yankee officials are already talking about price increases shows just how out of touch the Yankees are with their fan base.