The grass sure was greener a few years ago, Hal Steinbrenner reminded us all yesterday. As the Yankees took the field at their multi-billion-dollar home for the first time, the Yanks’ managing general partner and co-chairperson opined on the state of ticket sales. Perhaps, he said, the Yanks had priced themselves away from reality.
“I think if anybody in any business had known where the economy was going to go, they would have done things differently,” Hal Steinbrenner, in his first public comments of the spring, said Thursday afternoon. “There’s no doubt that small amounts of our tickets might be overpriced.”
According to the the youngest Steinbrenner son, the team has sold 35,000 season ticket equivalents, and they are anticipating well over four million fans again this year. The sticking point, however, are the Legends seats that cost $2500 per ticket per game. As this graphic by a RAB regular shows, the top tickets at Yankee Stadium are going for nearly four times as much as the next highest ticket in Major League Baseball.
In a way, though, that’s exactly why the Yankees built the new park. When they unveiled plans for the new Yankee Stadium, the economy was flying high, and the luxury-box and amenity-less old stadium wasn’t maximizing the Yankee revenue potential. As George Vecsey writes, rather cynically, in today’s Times, “The main goal became turning ballparks into resorts, land cruises designed for A.I.G.-bonus-recipient wallets, the games lasting long enough to wring more twenties and hundreds out of the faithful.”
In a similar column, Harvey Araton rehases the costs — both fiscal, political and communal — of the new Yankee Stadium. It all comes off sounding like a relic of our old economy. The Yankees’ new home is spectacular and huge and flashy. It features an insanely large TV screen and $9 cans of PBR. It is defying the economic reality of 2009.
The great thing is though that it doesn’t matter. The Yankees have, since the 1920s when they moved into Yankee Stadium and opened the first ballpark in baseball to earn the moniker of “stadium,” been the gaudiest and most ostentatious team. They’ve also been the most successful, and in a few years, the economy will catch up to the Yankees’ rich ways.
For now, though, the team is stuck with unsold and overpriced tickets. They can’t lower the prices without spurring on a revolution from the ticket holders rich — or foolish — enough to buy the tickets. The team will just have to settle for that reality right now.
“We understand that a lot of our fans are struggling. I mean, this is the worst recession in a most of our lifetimes,” Hal Steinbrenner said. “But at the same time I think baseball has always been an escape for people, you know? And I think what we’re going to provide here is an unbelievable experience for thousands and thousands of our fans that, despite the troubles they’re going through right now, maybe they’ll be able to get away for two or three hours, get their minds off things. And we’re going to make that experience, you know, tremendous.”