Gaming the Market

By Taryn “The Coop” Cooper

It’s funny how my status as a Mets ticket plan holder has evolved over the years. I was in some way shape or form a mini-plan holder, then became a full season holder. Believe it or not, depending on where you sit, being a baseball season ticket holder is not prohibitively expensive; of course, it’s all in the eye of the beholder on what you want to spend your discretionary income on. For myself and my husband, though, we enjoy going to games, good or bad, win or lose, plus we can barter or sell tickets to go on road trips.

I would be lying though, if I didn’t tell you that each year I wonder if I’ll still want to be a season ticket holder.

It started in 2007, the “whispers” of being “priced out of CitiField.” Everyone started freaking out because the Mets couldn’t figure out how to package their mini-plans, and season ticket holders really weren’t given a fair shot at where they wanted to sit. I’ll be the first person to tell you that. In 2008, they raised prices at Shea Stadium, to give us an idea of what we’d be up against. For the marketplace though, it was almost fair. Try going to a game at that place in the Bronx, or even a basketball game at Madison Square Garden. You’d be hard pressed to find a cheap ticket there. I’ve always argued that when we visit smaller market teams like Pittsburgh or even Baltimore, the tickets are priced according to that market. They are cheaper to us and more bang for the buck because of where these teams play. Whether their teams are bad is inconsequential. When I visit those stadiums, if I don’t have a rooting interest, I just enjoy the game. The prices, though, may be prohibitive to those who live in those markets, however. This is something we need to consider when griping about the Mets’ pricing structure.

Of course, in 2009 when CitiField opened, the Mets put the screws to some of their loyal ticket plan holders. I had seats in the Mezzanine, and the comparable area would be the Excelsior level or “Logezanine” as Greg Prince from Faith and Fear in Flushing calls it. The tickets were not realistically priced, and I had to settle for the Promenade. At the time though, it wasn’t that big of a deal. Remember, the Mets were supposed to be good that year, right? Fast forward a few months later, I had trouble selling my $18 seats for 18 cents.

That intro was to lay down the foundation for how the ticket pricing is going on now. It’s evident then that the Mets and most appropriately the Sterling Equities group (Wilpons/Katz, etc) were not gaming the market efficiently. A new stadium in the biggest media market should have been sold out at every single game, or close to it. Some will point to the season itself; some will say it had to do with pricing overall; others will say it was economic factors. What is evident is that the Wilpon/Katz family in their infinite wisdom thought it would be wise to introduce premium luxury seats to a blue collar fan base to settle their own monetary issues stemming from bad investments on their watch. Quite possibly, CitiField was one of those investments.

Each year I have been at CitiField, my prices have gone down significantly. In 2010, I even moved my seats to a lower level, as it was still cheaper than my 2008 seats at Shea Stadium. In 2011, my seats went down even further. I had about three games that people did not attend in my seats. They also introduced “perks” to ticket plan holders, such as taking the field with a player (I took position with Scott Hairston back in April!), subscriber events (such as breakfast at CitiField, raffles, winter team events), and ticket vouchers for additional tickets to a game, in premium seats.

The Mets just released their ticket pricing structure for 2012. Season ticket holders once again get savings, I am saving nearly 20% if I decide to renew for 2012 (which I probably will). They are issuing “dynamic pricing,” which means you get a structured level of pricing for what game you go to. This is nothing new, they’ve been doing this for years. You pay a higher dollar price for Mets/Yankees, Mets/Phillies, but you save going to see Mets/Nationals, etc.

The kicker? We need to renew by November 7 in order to indulge in the Season Ticket Perks, which was introduced last year. In previous years, we’ve been able to pay by December 15, and even have had payment plans introduced to us. The whole saving-money-thing doesn’t bother me: this the whole commitment-thing-before-hot-stove thing does.

At a season ticket holder function the last Sunday of the season, another fellow season ticket holder and I started chatting about the park. “Nice stadium,” he said. “Shoulda been sold out every game in 2009.” I agreed; it shouldn’t have been so hard to sell tickets. It still shouldn’t. There are several factors at play. The injuries are one thing. The AAA supporting cast is another. The lack of a plan or foresight in both 2009 and 2010 adds on to the uncertainty.

The team neglected to game the market. The Wilpons thought wrong in making the stadium for them, by making it smaller and raising ticket prices in a down economy and after two late season failings (though in fairness, there is no way they could have seen the last two things). They brought in new ticket people (including parting ways with Bill Iannicello, who had been with the team for as many years as I could remember), but it was a year too late. Even all the perks they are trying to woo season ticket holders with may not be enough. I remember the days when they didn’t offer us jack, just the good name of the Mets and the tickets. They figured a nice new park would be shiny enough to make us forget we were watching a crappy team after a while.

But will any of this make us want to go to games? Lowered ticket prices are nice. Would you pay an average of $29/ticket for outfield reserve (that’s how much mine cost, if you’re looking to buy next year, ha ha)?? Other monetary factors figure in like parking and tolls, gas even (As an example, I invited Randy from Read the Apple to a game where the ticket was FREE, and he said that even though the ticket I was giving him would be free, by the time he made it to the park, it would be upwards of $40, and he’d have to do it again since he was going to another game that week). Some people who have to travel find that the SNY broadcast along with the comforts of home like HD TVs and surround sound plus your own food make it enticing to just stay home.

Factor in a crappy team. At least they’re trying to game the market, but like most Mets’ efforts, they will probably fall short in this plan too.

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