The White Sox have lowered ticket prices!...kinda...not really

The White Sox have lowered ticket prices!...kinda...not really
Everything about this picture is absolutely terrible. See if you can spot it all! // Brian Cassella, Chicago Tribune

There is one solace for the fan of the disappointingly mediocre baseball team; and it's not the high draft pick, nor the Dylan Axelrod spot start.  No, it's the reluctant and marginal rollback of ticket prices.

For once, the White Sox did not disappoint.  The reductions were marginal, and maaaaan, were they reluctant:

Prices for their seats will be reduced by 2% to 18%, depending on seat locations. The exception is premium lower box and club level seats, which will remain flat.

A Sox official said the team doesn't comment on ticket prices, but sources confirmed the reductions.

So you can imagine my muted excitement when I got my email informing me of a one-day pre-sale (a whole day!) for returning 13-game plan holders who would like to renew with the new Pick 14 plan.  Well...

Pick 14 Chart

This of course, needs to be qualified.  This is a listing for the 13-game plan from last year and it's counterpart, the 14-game plan for this coming year.  They typically knock off a dollar from the normal single game price (which, hoo man, is not a significant amount to encourage a package purchase), and this excludes premium seating.  Then again, the block quote above indicates that's irrelevant anyway.

The guiding principle is still clear to see; a more significant percentage has been knocked off the upper deck, kowtowing to the much-repeated refrain "Why not cut the prices of the seats you never, ever, ever sell, just to see what happens?"

It's not the scorched-earth, "Cut the prices in half and make it back in beer sales" policy I so often hear proposed in the bleachers at USCF, but if it's any solace, they were absolutely never ever going to do something like that.

A more cynical mind might note that the reductions of seats in the lower bowl are no more than a buck or two for games that generally start in the $35 range, or that the U.S. Cellular upper deck is not one of the better experiences in the league (at least in terms of proximity to the field), and some might not find it that appealing at any price.

A cynical mind with more time on their hands might note that the from 2011 to this coming year, the Sox essentially transformed two Half-Price Mondays into Premier dates, and two Regular dates into a Prime and another Premier, allowing them to ably recouped any losses from dropping regular rates.

Looking at the schedule, the loss in Mondays can't really be helped, but turning the Milwaukee series into a Premier series was blatant opportunism, and turning every weekend series after Opening weekend into a Prime or Premier is a noticeable change as well.  Furthermore, the Cubs series actually sees a price hike despite last year's underwhelming attendance, and offers a good transition on why this change is not a great thing for regular customers.

Casual fans looking for a single game here and there, or merely super-avid bargain hunters, will be able to find individual dates and pay less than they have at USCF for a while.  More rabid fans, and those looking to purchase packages, and trying to construct multi-game plans that are spaced out across the year, will be running into increased amounts of premium dates.

What specifically drew my ire is that between tacking on an extra game, and mandating that all customers purchase two games of the increased-price Cubs series, renewing my Ozzie Plan into a Pick 14 plan easily increases the price of a package I spent under $400 on last season by ~20%, and that's with opting for every dreary mid-week interdivisional game possible.  It's more than enough to push me to scouring the secondary ticket market for my standard ~15 games in attendance a year.

But honestly, going back to school and a probably cruddy-2012 team was going to do that anyway, and I really rather not crow about ticket prices all day, as the financial health of the organization, and it's ability to spend competitively for the on-field product is more important to me than U.S. Cellular Field being the best deal in town.  I once paid $15 to sit right on the 3rd base line at PNC Park, ate at the in-stadium Outback Steakhouse, and saw Styx play a free concert afterwards.  But in between those events the Pirates were playing baseball.

In short, the White Sox have reduced some of their ticket rates, allowing for some bargains throughout the season, but have accounted for those cuts in increasing the Prime and Premier classifications, and upping the rates for games they feel have automatic attendance due to well-traveling fanbases for the visiting teams, or just tacking bit more onto loyal, high-volume fans.

It's a sneaky, and fairly smart play, but if last season's Yankees series was any indication, nothing is going to mask the continued slide of White Sox attendance besides consistent winning.

 

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  • While I'm sure higher ticket prices that lead to higher payrolls result in more consistently competitive teams on the field, it just hasn't worked out that way for the White Sox. I can only speak for myself, but I'd prefer they bring back cheaper tickets and better ball clubs.

    CWS Avg Wins 2000-5: 87.8
    CWS Avg Payroll 2000-5: $58MIL

    CWS Avg Wins 2006-11: 82.8
    CWS Avg Payroll 2006-11: $111MIL

    (Note: couldn't find stats for avg ticket prices. If someone knows where to find that please comment.)

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    I'd probably want those salary numbers adjusted for inflation or weighted toward the league average to really get worked up about them.

    I understand that they're never going to introduce a slashing of prices from previous levels, as it would equate to weakening their brand in their eyes, I didn't really mean to do anymore than point out that this is more a shifting around of costs than the price slash it's being termed as.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    Your point is clear. And it's a good one. I'm just making something of your rationalizing paying higher ticket prices.

    If you were to look at average payrolls and inflation, I think you'd find that the Sox were operating as a highly successful mid-market team until after they had won the World Series when they began operating like a big market team, however with less success in terms of team wins (maybe more in terms of revenue).

    Having to pay more money to sit in decent seats and watch worse teams is mildly irritating to borderline infuriating depending on your income, is my point.

    White Sox Payroll
    Year: MLB Rank
    2011: 5
    2010: 7
    2009: 12
    2008: 5
    2007: 5
    2006: 4
    2005: 13
    2004: 14
    2003: 22
    2002: 18
    2001: 16
    2000: 26

    (Source: http://www.stevetheump.com/Payrolls.htm)

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    Right on, as someone who spend waaaaay too much money on the Sox, you certainly have my ear. That's precisely why they're almost a lock to draw under 2 million this year, and will have to think long and hard about a remedy.

    I would assert though, that few would have supported the White Sox saying "We're comfortable staying as a mid-market team" after the World Series win and accompanying revenue bump. They spent to try to become perennial contenders, which everyone wanted them to become. Even now, I wouldn't argue that being a big payroll team should be some sort of anathema, it's just that KW has adjusted to it pretty poorly. It seems like it's best when his trademark aggression has built-in constraints.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    Well put, and totally agreed, which is why I am now kind of looking forward to the fire sale. Even more so now that Margalus at SSS suggested that all this payroll dumping might lead to the Sox resigning Buehrle. I hadn't thought of that. I'm not sure if that would be a good baseball move, but it would sure warm my heart. And the Sox are going to have to do a lot of heartwarming if they are going to continue to charge big market ticket prices for their mid market team.

    White Sox Baseball 2012: Back to the Grind?

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    I would add only to that slogan "...Better late than never"

  • The real question is that while they changed the 13 ticket plan to a 14 ticket plan, they can't call it the Ozzie Plan any more. So, what are they calling it? The "You're Dunn" plan? What's Hawk going to have to promote?

    As far as "Half Price Mondays," I was with a group that attended one about 12 years ago, but noticed that in subsequent years, Monday was usually the off day, so that promotion has been meaningless for a while now. I don't think that they even have dollar dog day.

  • In reply to jack:

    They're calling it the "Pick 14" plan, with a picture of a '14' jersey. I thought it curious they didn't take the extra step of calling it a "Paulie Plan", and whether or not that meant his place on the team isn't THAT secure. I suppose they just don't want to link it to any individual anymore.

    The off-day bounces back and forth between Monday and Thursday, so it's always a variable amount of games. Last year's 9 HP Mondays and 7 this year are still way more than there were in 2010. It varies, and while they definitely don't go out their way to increase the number of half-price dates, I can't really fault them for just letting it play out on its own.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    I think you're reading a little too much into it, I think they just learned their lesson naming ticket plans after active members of the team. Could anyone imagine just 2-3 years ago the Sox's relationship with Ozzie deteriorating this badly?

    Also, Paulie is a 10/5 player, so ultimately, the decision to stay with the Sox or not is his. He can't be traded without his consent.

  • In reply to NativeChicagoan:

    You're right, I would be sure he's stable unless strongly suggested otherwise. It was just an interesting choice. Perhaps as you said, they've just wised up about putting players and coaches at the forefront of promotions, especially as they enter what figures to be an unstable period.

  • nice work fegan.

    :p

  • In reply to The Wizard:

    Why, thank you, Wiz.

  • Do you have a break down of what games are at each price level? I can’t seem to find it anywhere…

  • In reply to derbach:

    I'm not sure if this link will work

    http://chicago.whitesox.mlb.com/cws/ticketing/ticket_plans.jsp?loc=pick14

    But normally you have to click on one of the season-ticket plans as if you're interested in buying, and a schedule that's color-coded for price level should come in the next screen.

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