The price of the playoffs

The Detroit Tigers have been lauded in this space, and recently in much more prominent places, about the relationship the organization has with the fans. But something seems to be amiss with regard to playoff ticket pricing. While some of other contenders are offering playoff tickets at only a slight mark-up, and in some cases at a slight discount, the Tigers have joined the Angels as teams who are putting in for premium price hikes (hat tip Baseball Musings).

It’s no secret that the Detroit economy is hurting. The Tigers received some flack for making modest price hikes to select seats going into the 2009 season (a move I defended). Attendance ended up down significantly, but the price hikes likely had little to do with it. The team was coming off record attendance numbers and a last place finish in 2008. The Tigers still will draw 2.5 million thanks in part to a first place team, and a bevy of discounts on mid range tickets (upper deck box and outfield box seats were on sale for weekday games most of the season).

Those discounts however don’t roll over to the post season and in the case of the ALDS alone many tickets are about double the regular season rate.

Location Regular Season ALDS
Regular Premium
On-Deck Circle $70 $77 $125
Tiger Den $65 $72 $115
Infield Box $45 $52 $85
Terrace $38 $45 $80
Outfield Box $32 $39 $70
Club Seats $27 $31 $70
Upper Box Infield $22 $26 $60
RF Grandstand $22 $29 $55
Mezzanine $15 $19 $45
Pavilion $16 $20 $45
Upper Reserved $12 $16 $50
Bleachers $12 $14 $40
Kaline’s Corner $10 $12 $45
Skyline $5 $5 $35

The prices for the subsequent rounds haven’t been made public yet, but based on season ticket holder reaction, the prices only go up. Holders of full season tickets had to buy a full strip, and the cost of 3 potential series was in some cases more than the cost of the other 81 games.

I understand that Ilitch has continued to invest in the team, despite decreased ticket and sponsor revenue. He added payroll at the trade deadline. He outspent most teams in the amateur draft. But I have to question pricing out many loyal fans right when the pay-off for the fans is on the horizon.

14 thoughts on “The price of the playoffs”

  1. I find it hard to criticize ticket pricing until the seats don’t get sold. The market drives the ticket price, obviously. I’d value (and pay) more than twice as much for playoff games.

  2. I hear what you’re saying… but on the other hand, if Illich is finally making back some of his investment, after doubling down and committing to do what was necessary to maintain a winning team when many other owners would have scaled back, I have no real problem with it.

  3. I understand the season ticket holder’s sentiment. I bought strips in 2006 that easily cost more than my 27 game pack. It was worth every penny, though. I had no trouble swapping tix for games I didn’t want. The problem with this year is that everyone knows we’re major underdogs all the way. What’s the point of locking up thousands of dollars for three months when there’s a very big chance that we’ll be out after one or two home games?

  4. If anything, I would like to bitch about the “convenience charges”. I got two tickets the day they went on sale. The total face value was $120. The charges came to a total of $28.10. ($148.10 total)

    What!?! 23% of the face value in charges?!? REALLY?

    I am so angry with these charges these days… It has stopped me from buying tickets in the past. I decided to go ahead this time, but I am not sure about trying for future rounds.

    Someone needs to do something about this problem.

  5. FYI – Here’s the strip breakdown for outfield box seats:
    If game: $45 (will obviously not be played)
    ALDS: $70
    ALCS: $110
    WS: $250
    You had to buy all potential games (If game, 3 ALDS tix, plus 4 CS & WS tix) on the strip, plus a $25 “convenience fee.” Refunds will be issued for unplayed games…sometime.

  6. Great piece Bill, thanks for posting. I did not renew my season tix this year due to the price increase, which I found in bad taste after setting an all-time attendance record last year while finishing last in the division. Combined with the major dip in the local economy I felt it was a bad decision by the Tigers to raise prices (my seats went up 15%). Playoff tix are always more expensive, but as you pointed out other teams chose to charge less for post-season tickets.

    I know this organization needs to generate more revenue, it’s a business after all, but the amount being charged is high compared to what the prices could have been. It would have been nice to see the organization cut the fans a break, but as much as I hate to say it, I’m not surprised.

  7. I bought a ticket and I assume the demand is there so I can’t really blame them. I am surprised that some other teams are offering tickets at a small mark up though. I would think everyone would be jacking up the price.

    Let’s make the playoffs to make this a relevant discussion though 🙂

  8. I bought a full playoff strip in ’06 and it was well worth it, I easily got rid of games I couldn’t/didn’t want to go to and went to one game each round. I won’t complain because the market does drive the prices, I sold game 2 world series tickets for $450 each which basically helped pay for the other games I went to during the playoffs and regular season.

    The only issue I have with this is for season ticket holders, having to put all of the money up front is quite a burden. They won’t be getting a refund until mid-November, that’s a long time to be sitting on two grand. It just so happened with me in 2007, I put the $2500 down for playoff tickets on my Canadian Visa, the exchange rate at that time was 1.25, by the time I received my refund about 2.5 months later the rate went down to 1.05, I lost over $500 and never saw one playoff game that year. Maybe I’m nitpicking right now, but I haven’t nor will I buy a full strip of playoff tickets again unless they allow payment before each round.

  9. I paid cash. Therefore, it doesn’t really matter. However, the cost of my strip far outweighed my season tickets. However, it’s my choice to pay for them.

    My question is…why does it take so long to get reimbursed? Is their a rational rule? I am not trying to be stupid but do they put the 5-10 million gross in a two month CD? 🙂

    1. I wish my salary was in US dollars and paying cash or putting it on credit didn’t matter, but personally, for me the exchange rate does make a significant difference in the price of tickets and paying that much up front.

      I guess time will tell if this team is good enough to make it to the ALCS or even World Series, but I bet with ticket prices, how they are now will be a tough sell to most fans. They may sell out, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it takes a day or even a couple of days. I didn’t buy post-season strip this year because I wasn’t worried about not having one opportunity to buy playoff games. I really think it’ll be different then ’06 and there will be tickets available at more reasonable prices (without having the shell out $2k upfront).

  10. This is econ 101 stuff. High demand (even in tough times) and somewhat of a monopoly. Plus you can bet that even if we are swept and only one game is played at CoPa, Yanks fans will drive the resell value of the ticket wayyyy up. These prices are worth it easily to most involved Tiger/Yankee fans who made a decent salary.

    I bet they could charge much more and still have a packed house.

    In my 20 year lifetime this will be the second time they most likely will make the post season. I hope they do not squander it.

    1. Games aren’t sold out yet. I don’t know that the demand is there. I think the ALDS games will sell out, but the ALCS games will be even more and there is a limit.

      It’s not that much for people who make a decent salary, but that pool is dwindling. Many are working less hours, or have lost an income from the household, or are still fearful about the long term prospects. Many are upside down on their mortgages. Even those with jobs didn’t get pay increases for the most part this year while their expenses went up.

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