SportsProf

(Hopefully) good sports essays and observations for good sports by a guy who tries (and can sometimes fail) to be a good sport.

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Saturday, August 27, 2005

Getting the Best Tickets to Your Favorite Games

For those of us, that is, who don't have the level of interest or resources to purchase season tickets to our hometown teams, and who want to purchase between, say, 2 and 6 tickets to a game. For example, if you're a Phillies' fan, and you want to sit downstairs at Citizens Bank Park, the tickets can run you $35 apiece. Say you want four seats to a game, and say that your schedule is such that you can't determine in March what game you precisely want to attend in August. Suppose, further, that you can make that decision in July.

The easiest way to get "very good" season tickets is to purchase, with a consortium of friends, four tickets at $35 apiece per game to all 81 home games and then divide them up say twenty ways. That would ensure you'd get tickets to about four games at a contribution of $560 (this comment assumes a perfect efficiency, of course, that you can get 19 other acquaintances to commit to this structure, that you can divide tickets fairly, and that no one minds getting at least one game with the Diamondbacks). (The cost of four season tickets at $35 apiece is a staggering $11,340).

Failing that, you have a bunch of choices. You can go online at the home team's website and purchase the best available seats (in my case I ended up getting reasonably good seats on the right field line), you can buy better seats from a ticket broker (albeit at a hefty markup from face value), you can chance buying tickets from a scalper in the parking lot (and stories of forgeries today make me wonder as to what you're really buying), or you can go to a place like StubHub.com. As I pointed out in an earlier post, my friend who went to the same Phillies' game as I did (and he's not even a Phillies' fan) got tickets about a week before the game on StubHub.com -- and he and his kids sat between home plate and third base (I sat on the right-field line). Because you don't necessarily talk about what things cost among friends, I didn't enquire as to what he paid, but I doubt he paid much more than I did (and given that the Pirates were in town, he could well have paid less than what I paid the Phillies for worse seats).

This episode raises a lot of questions in my mind. First, would it be fair for teams to charge more for games against "better" teams? For example, the Phillies might want to charge more for games against the Mets, for two reasons. First, the Mets are usually pretty good. Second, New York fans are wont to drive to Philadelphia for the games, and presumably they'd pay a little more (within reason; they won't go it they think they're getting gouged) for the privilege (than, say, a Phillies fan would pay for the privilege or watching the Rockies or the Diamondbacks). Second, would it be fair for teams to draw more distinctions among their ticket prices? For example, shouldn't seats behind home plate and between home plate and the bases cost more than seats on the same level that are on the right-field line? I appeal to fellow bloggers at Sports Economist for some help here, as they know more about this stuff than I do. It makes sense to me, and I think that people might pay a little extra for those seats.

All that said, I wonder about the ultimate effect that a StubHub.com will have on professional teams that do not sell out. After all, the team will want to sell me (and many like me) that extra ticket, will they not? After all, the teams are in the business of selling as many tickets as possible. Heretofore, my natural inclination was to go online and purchase the tickets from the team. But if I'm taking a little kid, or if I don't go that often, I'll want to sit in as good a seat as possible.

Which means I'll check out a place like StubHub.com as well as checking out the home team's website, because the chances very good that I'll be able to get a better seat on StubHub.com than I would from the home team (unless, of course, there are no tickets available on the alternative websites because the tickets are being used by their original purchasers, friends of the original purchasers, or those who purchased tickets from the original purchasers in an off-line transaction -- and that appears to be unlikely every game). Note that I said that I'll be able to get a better seat, because then the question arises as to what the price for those tickets will be. But then you remember that these are the Phillies we're talking about, so who knows what the premiums on tickets will be (and they'll be less or non-existent for teams that are out of the running, and in those cases tickets might even be selling at a discount). As a result, I may be able to get baseball tickets at face value. Or less.

But even if I pay a premium of $5-10 per ticket for that one game I want to go to, I'd do it if I can sit between home plate and third base than out in the outfield. And that means that if people like me are thinking this way, and if they are willing to purchase tickets online from third parties (and I believe there are secure ways to do so), that the teams are not selling incremental tickets. Instead, the purchasers of season tickets are finding a good way to help support their ticket purchases, as opposed to having to fork over over $10,000 for four very good tickets in a season's package, only not to use many of them. (I submit that even if you find a way to divide four tickets among many families, there still will be many tickets that potentially could go unused -- and online venues offer a way to recoup what otherwise would be lost out-of-pocket costs).

I wonder how the teams feel about StubHub.com. I'm really only focusing on baseball, because there are 81 home dates a year. My sense, from taking a quick glimpse at StubHub.com, is that the hometown Eagles' tickets are going for quite a premium at that venue, as they probably do for many NFL teams. But for baseball, where the ticket prices are creeping higher and higher, my guess is that they can't be that happy about this new phenomenon. After all, it is they who want to sell you that ticket in the end -- at the expense of those who are shelling out a ton of money to get season's tickets.

As I posted earlier today, the Phillies' are in a pennant race. They are playing well, and I might want to catch another game. If I do, I will go to StubHub.com before I go to the Phillies. It's not that I expect the Phillies to have a very good seat waiting for me -- I'm not much of a customer for them. But now that there's a secondary market for already sold tickets, I'm more optimistic that I can enjoy a better experience by getting closer to the action.

The Phillies don't want to hear me say that, of course, and I'm not doing myself a service by writing this because I could give others who are in competition for tickets with me some ideas about where to get better seats. But I'm grateful for the new marketplace, and I intend to try it out at some point in the near future.

3 Comments:

Anonymous bfaherty said...

While the Red Sox are in a different position as far as tickets go (every game is a sellout), they have already partially implemented a 2 tier pricing system for the newest sets of seats. Both the seats on the Green Monster (first available in 2003) and the table-type seating in far right field (first avail. in '04)have different prices according to opponent. Teams like the Yanks and Interleague teams like the Dodgers are in the higher tier, while the Royals and such are in the lower tier. These seats, due to their awesome newness and unusual settings, are only available by email lottery before the season. http://boston.redsox.mlb.com/NASApp/mlb/bos/ticketing/seating_pricing.jsp

6:51 PM  
Blogger SportsProf said...

Thanks and welcome to the blog. It's a smart practice from a business standpoint, and as we've become more and more of an event-oriented society, it's clear that the BoSox could charge triple the price for the Yankees, while probably not having to discount for the Royals because the Sox play in a small park and the demand for their tickets is great. Layer atop all of this the likes of StubHub.com, and there's a very interesting market for tickets.

7:17 PM  
Anonymous Phillies said...

Great post! At some tickets broekers seats that aren't even as good as this one are going for $241 a piece. You can get two for the price of one. Actually Sect 105 Row EE going for $261 a ticket.For sporting events I end up comparing prices through comparison search engines to get good seats.

10:49 AM  

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