Sensible Pricing at the Ballpark

When I was a kid, tickets for grandstand seats at Comiskey Park (where my team, the White Sox, used to play) cost the same regardless of who the opponent was (only 7 possible in those days), the time of day or day of week. At a recent Minnesota Twins game I learned that MLB has gotten smart, pricing differentially depending on the identity of the opponent and the date/time of the game.

For games in the same one-week period a home plate view grandstand seat in Target Field ranges from $36 to $45, with a higher price for night games, weekend games and, most important, for more attractive opponents (sadly, higher, other things equal, for the Red Sox than the White Sox). Probably aided by web technology, teams can do a better job of equilibrating demand and the (fixed) supply of seats, although the current price range and the partly-empty stadium in the game I saw (against the last-place Kansas City Royals) still doesn’t seem great enough to accomplish this completely.

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  1. Justin says:

    I never understand why their are not more heavily discounted tickets and good promotion deals for games vs low performing/unpopular teams. Since the team they are playing are likely to have a low number of fans attending vs home town fans. Unlike lets say the Yankees or Red Sox were playing. It would seem a good idea to try and lure some of the casual fans into the ball park with low prices who would other wise not come. Then increase the chance they have a good experience by offering cheap food/drink. Maybe something like 1.50$ hot dogs/soda and like 5$ beers. Making them more likely to become more interested in the team and want to purchase overpriced team approved apparel. I know they would suffer some loss with the people who would pay 5$ for a hot dog and 9$ for a beer. It just seems to me that even in the short term the volume would most likely make up for loss of higher price per unit. I think the fans feeling appreciated and being able to get more exposure to their home town teams would be where the larger pay off would come in the end.

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  2. Tiffany says:

    This works very well in certain markets. I’m (unfortunately) an Orioles fan, and on Yankee and Red Sox weekends, I’m definitely outnumbered by the visiting team’s fans. It works for them tickets to Yankee Stadium and Fenway Park are difficult, so Baltimore is the closest place to New York or Boston that these fans can see their teams play. A lot of these fans will travel from the team’s home town to see them play in another market. Even though it’s annoying to home team fans to be out numbered, Baltimore’s regular season games have spotty attendance at best so we tolerate it to rake in some extra dough.

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  3. M says:

    You didn’t see a partly empty ball park. You saw empty seats because the people who had bought those seats were in the several restaurants and other amenities at Target Field.

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  4. Steve J says:

    I could see this working IF the prices went up AND down (i.e. the average price over the year for a seat should be the same as today’s standard pricing). This would allow families to go to less high profile weekday games without breaking the family budget. When I was 6 I didn’t know who we were playing and I didn’t care because I was at the game. Let the people who want specific teams pay extra for that. If fans don’t smell the scent of moneygrubbing owners in this they could really embrace it. If it becomes like paying for premium seating on an airplane we all know how well that will fly…

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  5. Michael says:

    The problem in MLB is that owners have decided in the past 15 years that squeezing every possible cent from their seating is the top priority.

    Case in point: a game in Seattle where attendance was around 15,000 in a 45,000-seat ballpark. Those 15,000 included around 1200 folks who received free tickets in a local Starbucks giveaway. Despite the vast empty expanses of seats in the ballpark, the free ticket holders were corralled into the very worst seats in the park, atop the upper deck by the right field foul pole.

    What the team could have done is gone up there in the 2nd or 3rd inning with a fistful of lower-deck tickets and instructions to let these people move down, where concessions are more varied and abundant and where they may get a taste of a box seat and want to buy one next time.

    What the team DID do is put their ushers on high alert to keep the “freeloaders” in their place. It seemed they were occupied with finding anyone who looked out of place in the box seats and making them present their tickets, ejecting those who tried to “scam” a better seat. Watching the army of ushers moving about the box seats was more riveting than the game, in a sad sort of way.

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  6. BSK says:

    If I remember correctly, they are already doing this. I read that teams no use real time data to adjust prices. If you walk up to a ticket window 2 hours before the game you might pay different than someone who walks up 1 hour. Buying the tickets a month in advance gets you a different price than buying them a week. I don’t know exactly what data they use and how they determine pricing, but they do have their algorithms and many teams are already using them.

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  7. crquack says:

    Really? People *pay* to watch baseball?

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  8. Ed Indiana says:

    Who can afford going to games anymore no matter how you price it?

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