The ownership groups of the Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins recently held a panel to discuss ways of lowering ticket prices for the average fan — and came up with virtually nothing.
Really, fellas? In a wobbly economy where the average price of a baseball ticket is around $27, football is $76, basketball is $48 and hockey $54?
We can do better than that. DailyFinance asked experts and fans for creative ways to push prices down across the nation, in all major league sports. Their answers could revolutionize the business of sports — or make team honchos choke on their morning bran muffins.
1. Give the tickets away. You read correctly. Maury Brown, founder and president of the Biz of Baseball, said some lower-rung teams could generate goodwill and rebuild their customer bases by letting folks in for free on occasion. “So if I’m the Pittsburgh Pirates, I’m considering this,” he said. Teams would still collect the concession and souvenir sales. There are recent precedents: In 2010, the Tampa Bay Rays gave away 20,000 tickets to a game with the American League’s Eastern Division title at stake, and the NHL’s Pittsburgh Penguins hosted a free exhibition game and job fair in September.
2. Pay the players for performance. Ask players to give back a percentage of their salary if they perform below an agreed upon level of expectations, and pass the savings on to the fans, Jim Carpenter suggested at the Reservoir Bar in Manhattan. Craaaccck. That was the sound of Hell freezing over, Jim. But we like the idea.
3. Raise concession prices to allow for a reduction in ticket prices, Jaren Canady suggested while lunching at the Village Pour House, a short walk from the Reservoir. Fans can save further by “just eating at home” before the game, he added, and teams can make up some of the shortfall with souvenir sales. Jaren is still in school at New York University, but we say give this guy a front-office job pronto.
4. Cut salaries — from the bottom. Let veteran superstars make the crazy money they do, but slash rookie salaries and divert the the savings into the tickets, Canady added. He conceded that the short career span of NFL players might cause an outcry, but those thriving after a few seasons would benefit.
5. Lower all player salaries to sane levels so prices would naturally fall, Pour House patron Flynn Murray declared. The following jobs are not for you, Flynn: sports agent and union negotiator for the NFL and NBA unions, both of which face a possible work stoppage next season over money issues.
6. Pit the resellers against each other. StubHub and other ticket-resellers are making cheap tickets available, notes Andrew Zimbalist, a sports economist at Smith College in Massachusetts. If there’s enough competition between online scalpers, they might have to outdo each other by lowering their add-on fees, he theorized. (StubHub takes 15% from sellers and a $5 service charge plus $4.95 for email per ticket from buyers.)
7. Promote dynamic pricing, the practice of constantly adjusting ticket prices based on supply and demand. “Sports teams don’t want their attendance to get below a certain threshold and undermine the momentum they have,” Zimbalist said. The San Francisco Giants became the first team to use dynamic pricing for every seat, and others, such as the Dallas Cowboys and Cleveland Indians, have experimented with sections of tickets.
8. Create a booth for heavily discounted rush tickets just before game time, a la the TKTS Booth on Broadway, said Reservoir regular Mark Norell. Better that the seats be filled than empty, he reasoned. The Yankees offer “Moe-Saver” tickets at Modell’s Sporting Goods on the same day of games, but even at half price, the triple-digit tickets made available through the program are too expensive for many. Norell envisioned a truly last-minute setup where patient fans can score great deals.
9. Give moms and dads a break by letting kids fill seats for next to nothing for less popular games, advised Steve Burke at the Reservoir. “They’re not watching anyway,” he said.
10. Teams should lower the price of middle-bowl arena and stadium tickets down to where middle-class fans can afford them, and raise prices on premium seats and corporate boxes to compensate, said Biz of Baseball’s Brown. Executives at the Boston panel said their teams were already focused on making more money by catering to the swells. Why not ask them to pay a little more?
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