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...
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.