Monday, March 16, 2009

Ticket Master

In 'Brother , Can You Spare $350 a Game', Richard Sandomir looks on with amusement as the Yankees try to unload "premium" box seats starting at $350 and climbing to $2,500 per game (NY Times, March 15 ,2009). In this piece, he asks "who out there remembers $ 4.50 box seats". The answer is surprising.

I graduated from college in 1974 (the year before the Messersmith/McNally decision began the era of free agency in baseball). The price of a Yankee box seat in that year was $4 (riveraveblues.com). The average major league salary was $40,839 (stevetheump.com). 10 years later, the box seat prices had only risen to $9 and did not reach $10 until 1987. By the end of last year, the average major league salary had ballooned to $2,925,679 and the Yankees had raised their charge for box seats to $250.

Sandomir reports of the difficulties in the Yankees unloading these outrageously priced tickets in the middle of the worst economic cataclysm in almost 80 years. In December of last year, Randy Levine, the Yankees President, stated that "we are very sensitive to the economic conditions, to people's concerns. We monitor it very closely and if necessary, can make adjustments" (Associated Press, December 25, 2008). Two months later, Lonn Trost, the team's chief operating officer, acknowledged that the recession had an effect on the pace of sales of these 4,000 or so premium seats. Yet, when asked if the Yankees might drop the cost of these seats to entice buyers in these hard times, Troast replied "no, our prices are our prices" (Newsday.com, February 24, 2009)

We understand that sports long ago stopped being about anything but business. We recognize we are no longer being entertained like we are at a little league game but at a Springsteen concert. But while Nero continues to fiddle, Rome is definitely burning. In the span of 35 years, the top price for Yankee tickets has multiplied 90 fold and shows no signs of letting up.

We have come face to face with reality in 2009. The era of living dangerously has brought us to our collective knees. The stock and real estate market bubbles have burst. The sad truth is all around. Yet today, my cup of soda for the Yankee game costs well in excess of what my SEAT cost 35 years ago. The least expensive premium seat now costs more than my gross salary PER WEEK as a lawyer in 1977.

I have a message for the Yankees. Stop, for one brief moment, and really look around. Treat us like loyal customers who have sustained you throughout the years. We helped finance the building of the new Stadium. It holds 10,000 fewer seats than our old beloved stadium and many more luxury boxes. Thus, fewer of us get in to see our team and even fewer of us can find affordable seats.

In our time of trouble, don't slap us in the face, but reach out your hand and help us up. We see you as being like the executives from those companies who took our bail out money and then treated themselves to large bonuses.Take a smaller bonus this year and put that extra money back in our pockets.Don't continue to drink champagne when we can't afford the price of your soda.


Anonymous said...

As usual, a great piece, well written and timely!

Robert said...

thank you very much

Anonymous said...

Would not suprise me to see a lot more empty seats this season.

Robert said...

It will certainly be interesting to see what happens. The Yankees would like us to think that there are enough people (ie corporations) insulated from the effects of this economic downturn to fill all the seats. Are we stupid or are they?


David B said...

Great article. Joan and I loved the whole piece !!!!

Robert said...

thank you very much

I am so excited that my blog is now being read by people in foreign countries (well, maybe it is just because you are on vacation in Paris- but, if you tell one person there, who tells another person)

Unknown said...

It's getting harder and harder to be/stay a yankee fan--from their front office dealings, to the constant soap opera of which the team has become, to their unrealistic view of what us "regular folk" can afford to see a game. I'm getting sick of it. Take away the guys from the 90's and I almost don't care about the team. It's just a rotating lineup of hitters and pitchers I have no connection to. And why do I want to pay MORE for that? I think I hear the Atlanta Braves calling my name.


Robert said...

Hot dogs and beers at my house for the opening home game (I can see the Stadium from my window).

Being at the game now becomes a luxury that fewer and fewer of us can afford.

Richie Jay said...

Like the ongoing fantasy of obtaining Opening Day tickets, dad, you also harbor the unrealistic view that you can "see Yankee stadium from your window." Last I checked, the most we can see is several hundred thousand watts of taxpayer-subsidized light seeping up into the distant sky during a night game. This does not count as being able to see the stadium from the window, in my humble opinion.

Robert said...

First, in my mind I can see the Stadium (it is my romanticized view out my window)

Second, it is really a question of semantics. If I can see the lights and the lights emanate from the Stadium, then I can see the Stadium as far as I am concerned.

Richie Jay said...

What happens during a day game, then? Can you still see the Stadium? (Opening Day is a 1:05PM game).

Robert said...

I will use my imagination.