The Phillies announced that they will increasing ticket prices for the 2009 season, as demand for tickets is on the rise after the World Series win. Most seats will cost $2-$3 more, and premium seats will go up $6 each, costing $50 a piece and lower infield seats go from $50 to $60, a $10 increase. Season ticket packages will range from $1,300 to $ 4,100. Phillies vice president of sales and ticket operations, John Weber, stated that while they are trying to mirror prices in similar markets, they did keep the current economy in mind. “I think we could’ve increased it even further based on the demand we have,” Weber said. “I think we definitely kept it (down), keeping the economy and everything in mind.” He also said that many seats have been the same price since 2004, as further justification.
It could be worse. Look at the Nationals for example; their ticket prices for some seats are 50% higher than similar seats at Citizens Bank Park, and the Nats are a last place team. However, while it is true that prices for a Phillies ticket have generally been lower than some other similar markets, this does not soften the blow. Major League Baseball, in general, has been slowly but surely alienating the average fan. The ticket prices have gone sky high and when you factor in the cost of ballpark food, drink, souvenirs and parking (and for some of us, gas costs), a family of four will spend anywhere from a minimum of $138 for nose bleed seats without buying any “extras” (4 tickets $88, parking $10, food & drink for 4 – $40 minimum, souvenirs optional) to $250 for decent seats; again, no “extras” (4 tickets $200, parking $10, food & drink for 4 – $40 minimum, souvenirs optional). Add in the cost of toys for the kids, maybe a hat or tee shirt and other items, and you’ve dropped about $300 on ONE game. Go to 2 games and you’ve spend the average Joe’s entire paycheck. Your normal, everyday, hardworking blue collar people simply can’t afford this. And a team that prides itself on being down to earth, blue-collar types, should be more sensitive to the plight of the average fan.
It was never more evident to me that baseball prices have gone WAY out whack than it was during the playoff run this year. I was lucky enough to attend at least one game of every series this October at CBP, including game 4 of the World Series. What I noticed was, as the playoffs progressed, the demographics of the crowd began to change. The Division series against the Brewers was some of what you’d expect at a Phillies game; lots of families, college kids and generally a nice, friendly atmosphere, with some of the stiff corporate movers thrown in. Moving on to the League Championship series and then the World Series, I saw the crowd change even more. Fewer families, fewer young people and more Corporate-types in suits. Plus, there were LOTS of people who knew NOTHING about the game or any of the players and were just people with money ready to jump on the bandwagon. And if you know anything about Philly fans, they KNOW their team. But those fans are the ones who can’t afford $250 for ONE World Series ticket; and that is if they were lucky enough NOT to get robbed on E-Bay or by other on-line scalpers who were charging anywhere from $500 for a standing room only ticket to thousands of dollars for an actual seat.
During the World Series game I attended, one man in a suit actually clobbered me, trying to reach over my head during batting practice to get a foul ball for his kid. The kid asked his Dad who tossed the ball (it was Ryan Howard) and neither the kid nor the Dad knew who he was! The Dad then instructed the kid (he looked about 10 years old) to climb over the seats and push me out of the way so he could get closer! So there I am, trying to take pictures, and I have stuck-up, spoiled 10 year old kid kicking at my legs to try to get me to move. Unbelievable. You’d all be proud of me though; I didn’t budge. Now, I let kids in front of me all the time…I am pretty tall and can usually shoot pictures over their heads. But this behavior was just disgusting. I looked down at him and told him that he needed to quit kicking me and go back to his father. The stern look on my face got his attention and he finally moved on.
I am sure that could happen at any game, but the main point is that they were not REAL fans. These are not the people who follow the team all year long and keeping coming back whether the team is winning or losing. These people had no idea who Ryan Howard was! And that was only one of many, many situations I found myself in and conversations I overheard. People sitting around me were unfriendly and paid more attention to their PDA’s and cell phones than they did to the game. Usually, I meet really great people and have fun conversations about the game with them, but these crowds were cut from a different cloth. During the League Championship series, I even saw a woman 2 rows in front of me playing solitaire with a deck of cards on top of the food tray she flipped over onto her lap. This was right in the middle of the game.
There were still some of the usual fans, like me, wandering around, but we were sorely outnumbered; those fans who either saved up the money, called in favors or simply made good friends with their credit card companies (guilty!) to buy tickets. But the invasion of the upper-class, “casual” fan was very apparent. The prices of a post-season ballgame have driven away the die-hard fans who just can’t manage the finances and invited in Corporate America to take their places and regular-season ticket prices are heading in the same direction. Big companies buy up tickets and hand them out as gifts or incentives for employees. The result? A large population of game-goers who arrive in the 2nd inning and leave in the 7th. Sound familiar? The LA Dodgers have followed this model for years. They attract more casual fans than real ones, because the real fans can’t afford the prices. Does Philly really want to mirror big cities like LA? I should hope not.
And it is not just Philly, it is all of Major League Baseball. Fans everywhere are being shut-out from their favorite pastime and are forced to choose between a day at the ballpark or feeding their family. Guess which one will win every time? No contest. So, drive us away, but remember, if you alienate enough of us, you run the risk of having long-time, loyal fans become resentful of a team they once loved. And ultimately, it is the team, the city and the sport of baseball that will suffer the consequences.
And for the football fans, I have also started a Miami Dolphins page, The Dolphin Pod! All Dol-Fans, and anyone else who wants to say hello is welcome!
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