Cubs Lower Season Ticket Costs While Mostly Raising Individual Ticket Prices

The Cubs announced their new ticket prices for 2013 and Alvin is doing a victory dance with his bologna sandwich tonight because he is getting a ~10% reduction on his seats up there in the last row of the bleachers.

In fact, all season ticket holders are holding basically even or getting a slight discount next year from the 2012 prices. In addition to the cut in bleacher prices, the Upper Deck Box Outfield folks are also getting a ~10% reduction and the the Terrace Reserved Outfield people are getting ~5% off.

Everybody else pretty much holds even at the old levels. If we averaged them out weighting them equally (which I know isn't 100% accurate, but it should be close enough for our purposes), the Cubs lowered their overall ticket prices by about 1.6%.

What's interesting is how the Cubs re-jiggered their individual ticket prices to come to this final overall reduction:

You'll notice that only 9 individual ticket price points were reduced. 37 price points were raised and 19 remained steady. Wait… what?

How did the season ticket prices come down while 56% of the price points actually went up? The key is how the games were distributed in the five pricing tiers. The tickets in the seating bowl have 4 fewer games in the Marquee tier than last year and 3 more in the Bronze tier.  The Bleachers have 7 fewer in the Marquee tier and 7 more in the Bronze. They also have 8 more Gold level and 8 fewer Silver. So even though many of the price points were raised, over the course of the season the total amount to purchase every ticket was lowered because there were fewer of the most expensive tickets available.

This is clearly a move to appease their season ticket holders and indicates to me that the Cubs are extremely nervous about the attrition rate of their waiting list. They'll still claim that renewal rates are strong and the number of the people on the waitlist still tops 100,000, but when it comes to ticket revenues, actions speak louder than words.

For individual ticket purchasers, the news is not as good. For one, the prices listed above are generally $1 to $2 lower than they will be when single game tickets go on sale. That doesn't alter the percentage change on the tables above very much because season ticket holders saved $1-2 per ticket last year as well, so while the percentages might change by a tenth of a point or two, that doesn't mean a lot when we're talking about general trends.

Secondly, unless you buy Upper Deck Box Outfield seats, your individual tickets will generally cost you more than last year. Remember, the savings is a result of there being fewer Marquee games on the schedule. So while it is less likely you will be buying an individual ticket for a Marquee game than last year, if you do go to one, chances are you'll pay as much or more for that ticket.  If you go to Gold, Silver, or Bronze level, you almost assuredly will pay more. In fact, the average Bronze level seat will cost you over 13% more than a Bronze game from last year.

I'll restate that. You can expect to pay about 13% more per ticket to watch two 90-loss teams play each other on a cold September weekday afternoon than you would last year. In some cases you'll pay significantly more than that. If you sit in the Terrace Reserved section for that horrid game, you'll pay 33% more than last year ($16 compared to $12 last year).

It's a bold strategy that seems on the surface like it may have been Todd Rickett's idea. Those Bronze level tickets were selling for less than a dollar on StubHub last year because season ticket holders were dumping them for anything they could get. Knowing that as we know now and knowing the team will most likely be shitty again next year, why would anyone buy those tickets at the old face value, much less the new one?

The answer might lie in some upcoming scare tactics that the Cubs like to employ to falsely inflate ticket demand. 

As reported by Paul Sullivan, the Cubs are ready to expand their dynamic pricing experiment:

The Cubs also will use dynamic pricing in the entire ballpark, Faulkner said, after experimenting with the concept in the bleachers in 2012. As ticket inventory decreases, the price of the unsold tickets will go up.

So while people might normally be inclined to wait and see if the team does, in fact, suck as much balls as it did last year before running out and buying tickets to see the Cubs play the Padres, they may feel compelled to buy the tickets early to make sure they get the tickets at the lowest price point. If they wait and the team is actually better than they expect, it could cost more to buy the tickets later.

And don't think the Cubs won't be driving that point home all winter long.

Plus, remember that dynamic pricing allows them to sell fewer tickets overall while maintaining a decent revenue stream because the price point keeps rising as the tickets are sold. So they can make up for lost revenue in the crappy games by selling lots of ever-more-expensive tickets to the popular games.

But I guess as long as Alvin is happy. That's the main thing.


About aisle424

I used to write lots of things about the Cubs. Now I sometimes write things about the Cubs.