White Sox experiment with ticket prices

New pricing model aims to match ticket prices more closely with demand, but I have a better idea.

After complaining off and on about attendance the past decade, the White Sox announced an experimentation to actually do something about it.

CHICAGO – The Chicago White Sox today announced the club will experiment with a dynamic pricing structure for certain seating sections during all seven games of the final 2010 homestand. Tickets in designated seating sections will be available with dynamic pricing, providing fans with more ticket pricing options, for all games vs. Boston (September 27-30) and Cleveland (October 1-3).
Ticket prices for seats in select sections will move upward and downward based on market demand and a variety of other factors. Through dynamic pricing, select seats for the final series of the season vs. the Cleveland Indians will be priced as low as $15.

The White Sox appear to be veering from their staunch, we-have-revenue-predictions-for-x-years-in-advance pricing model, which hasn’t really served them all that well in this recession. Obviously they can charge what they want; games are a luxury and all that. However, if disposable income isn’t catching up with the price increases, there’s a bit of a fundamental disconnect.
The thought of ticket prices lining up with demand sounds nice, but the first impression doesn’t strike me as an avenue to great value just yet. Yes, you can buy upper-upper deck seats for $15, and thumbs-up for that. But for the hell of it, I selected the “dynamic price offer” option for two of the best available lower bowl seats, and it put me in Section 110, nine rows up for $51.
If you just search for two tickets with the same criteria with the “full price ticket” option, you can get seats in Section 153, 34 rows up, for $43.
(Also, it is kinda funny that the game is still considered “prime,” even with a lack of playoff hopes and the Sox going through the motions.)
Upon first trial, the system seems to reserve better seats at higher prices, which strikes me as a wee bit scalpy in this case. They’re basically creating their own secondary market by reserving tickets and attempting to sell them at a higher price.
Then again, there have to be some safeguards in place to keep the people who buy their tickets well in advance from being embittered. The Sox can’t encourage their entire customer base to wait until the last minute, because that would really hurt the revenue if bad weather or bad teams strike.
And if it’s truly “dynamic,” you can’t judge it from a snapshot on the first day of implementation. So I’ll be keeping an eye on those Section 110 seats to see if and how much they move.
If StubHub is any indication, the cost should be on the way down. Right now, you can get tickets right behind the dynamically priced and offered $51 seats for only $30, plus commission.
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While on the subject of ticket prices, here’s a thought: Why not create another pricing level in the upper deck — maybe Sections 552-558 and 512-506 — and charge $12 face value on non-prime days?
For a team that isn’t drawing like it thinks it should, it really lacks a price point that is attractive for people who just want to get in the stadium.
Maybe $12 isn’t worth the extra staffing for ushers and maintenance, who can leave those sections alone most of the time. And there would need to be security, if you assume that many of the cheap seaters will make up the expense deficit with alcohol.
But hell, they already treat every upper-deck denizen like a second-class citizen or distant Ligue relative by not allowing them to access the 100 level. It’s a policy that feels slightly degrading, in my opinion, but perhaps they could use it to their advantage to sell considerably cheaper seats. You know, treat it less as a blanket ban and more of an established safeguard in place to prevent an abuse of a decent deal.
It’d be kinda cool if you could use a $20 bill to get in the stadium and get something to eat, even if you have to watch the game from the other side of the Dan Ryan.
StubHub gives me some idea that it might be feasible. Right now, I can find two tickets in Section 548 for $19.95 total, so $12 as an everyday price, with the exceptions of the crosstown series and bobblehead days, seems somewhat reasonable. Maybe this flexible system will get us to that point, but I think it’d be beneficial to guarantee a cheap night out than trying to play the market for one.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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knoxfire30

You cant give away tickets to the last couple games of the season at this point.
If they want a real experiment to fill the part slash prices for the 2011 season in the upper decks and get that place filled up. Maybe they could also stop charging 23 bucks for parking, last time I was in Anaheim it was 8 dollars to park, in Pittsburgh it was 12, certain sections of milwaukee have 1 dollar parking but on average its around 10. Why are the sox so special they have to charge 23???

Shinons

I know that’s the big one that keeps my family away, even more than the price of a ticket. To add to knox’s context, in Indianapolis you can park very close to Conseco Fieldhouse for $3, a block away for $2. Not to suggest that Indy or Milwaukee are Chicago, just that $23 is going to keep casual fans away.

dalton

For comparison’s sake, I believe it is $20 to park near Tiger Stadium (or whatever they’re calling it now; been there twice).
The few times I’ve been to the Cell, I parked a few blocks north of the stadium for free and walked. These were for night games, too. But not everyone feels comfortable doing that, especially with a family in tow.

Shinons

Honestly my personal opinion is that $23 isn’t that big of a deal when you’re already shelling out well over a hundred to bring a family to the park – and if it’s $15 would people be all right with it? Is the last 8 bucks in a day you know is going to hurt the wallet the dealbreaker? I don’t get it. I just know it’s the most common excuse the family makes.

Buehrlesque

Like knoxfire and shinons, the very first thing I thought of as I read this article was parking. A $15 ticket would be nice and all, but $23 to park is a major disincentive.
In that regard, the cheap $15 tickets would be a boon for college kids who take the train down to the park, but would have less effect on families driving to the game. Still, it’s probably better than nothing at all.

grinderintraining

I take the El to games, so I don’t really notice the parking costs, but $23.00 is pretty steep.
Maybe you could add that to part of the dynamic pricing. If you bring in a parking stub, and you prove that you are with kids, you get, say 25% off upper reserved tickets at the gate? And 10% of lower level seats.
That’s just off the top of my head, I’m sure you can come up with a better system if you put some though into it.
Obviously though, the parking costs are prohibitive for families going by what others are saying, figure out a way to cut some of that pain out. Especially for those who are bringing kids.

knoxfire30

Yea some of the pricing the sox have really drives people away. Im not the smartest guy in the world but I majored in economics and I cant see how a team cant profit from a full park vs a half filled park of people overpaying. If you price right and get that place full you bring in so much more on food, beverage, merchandise, parking, ect ect
The stadium is paid for, the people in the organization are paid already, their are a million sunk costs already on the books why drive people away as oppose to bringing them in.

bigfun

Nice extreme close-up of Morel’s September by Bryan Smith: http://www.fangraphs.com/blogs/index.php/white-sox-need-morel-at-3b/
He’s more optimistic than I would have expected.

fustercluck

I rarely make it to games from downstate, so I gladly pay up for decent seats when I can. But if I lived closer, prices might still keep me on the couch. Hell, maybe they’ve determined that a Comcast viewer is worth more than a fanny in the seats.
I think the overpricing is due to the wrong-headed desire to not be seen as the bargain bin alternative to uptown Wrigley Field. Which would be fine if they could compete at the turnstiles, but the 60s are behind us.
The market has spoken. The seats as priced are half-empty. The glacial pace of discounting remains stubborn and deluded. And the Sox seem more interested in bilking the existing fans than appealing to new ones. From circumstances that suggest aggressive pricing, Sox remain passive-agressive.

Carl Skanberg

It sounds like they paid a consultant to teach them how to manage their ticket sales like a ticket broker.
Brooks Boyer, “While dynamic pricing will move ticket prices up or down, fans who purchase early will most likely tend to get the best deals.”
That’s more than a wee bit scalpy.
But whatever, I didn’t get to one game with the family this year. Taking a single-income family of 5 to a baseball game has gone the way of single-income families of 5.

hiimskot

I’ve had an Ozzie Plan in the upper deck since 2007, and I STILL can’t get down to the 100 level without an elevator pass. The Sox do a lot of things right, but they’ve severely dropped the ball since they implemented the ban on 100 level access.
And yeah, parking is a problem. I usually park on the street a few blocks away, but the city seems to be in the process of eliminating any sort of permit-free parking near the park.

lorenzobandini

A few years ago, the Atlanta Falcons were having a tough time selling out. They started selling the crappy, up high in the bowl, seats for $10.
Bingo, no more problem.
I think they should make the upper deck no booze and general admission. Only open it when the bottom bowl is full.

dudeman

Let’s not be silly.

chisoxt

The true cost in the game is the crap they gouge you for like (the aforementioned) parking, beer, food, beer and beer.
I was offered four free tickets (lower bowl) to one of the Minny games last week and declined.

dudeman

I was happy to see the $7.50 20 ounce option this year, but it’s a damn shame I have to get out of my $40 seat to get one… over and over.
It’s nice to see that the Sox are thinking outside the box when it comes to attendance. I was semi-embarrassed at our totals this year, at least before the last Twins series, and I hope the can fix it. Is there such a thing as attendance momentum? Because even while the Sox were red hot and pulling into first place, it seemed I was haveing a hard time getting guys to go with me. Seems like it just never took off this year, even when it should have.

alwayssox

There are a number of factors, but the Sox are also the lowest team in road attendance.
http://espn.go.com/mlb/attendance/_/sort/awayAvg

fustercluck

Yeah, looks like CLE/KC bring down the Sox, Sox bring them up. Still, a fun stat!!

jimbulla

Here are a couple of thoughts from a guy who grew up on the south side and went to school across the Dan Ryan from Sox park. The Sox are actually a small market team. I’m guessing 75% of the Chicago area population have not been to more than one Sox game in the last 10 years and would not go to a game if it was free and you picked them up in a limo. That’s just the way it is. Their wild stretch potential fan base is about 2 million tops. Perhaps a better indicator is the fact that the Sox TV ratings – average number of households watching is about 65,000. This is not way way out of line with other teams but it is low and shows you how small the true base really is. Take a look at the average Sox attendance over the last hundred years. They have averaged over 30,000 only a handful of times. This year (27,342) is a good year all things considered.
fyi – if you buy a Sox Split Season Plan (27 home games) your actual tickets are the “fancy” type season ticket holders get and you are allowed downstairs even if you have upper deck seats. You can sit anywhere as long as the seat is not taken. They treat you just like full season ticket holders.
Jim, if you are going to track the dynamic price offer, it probably is not a good idea to track the first game. A team called the Bears are playing on Monday night about 3 miles from the Cell. I’m convinced that if you said the Sox/Boston game was free they would not “sell” out.
Thanks for distracting me from the real reason for the dynamic price offer!!

ricksch

From what you all have indicated Sox ticket pricing is seriously outrageous, especially compared to the mediocre product they offer.
Last night at Angels Stadium, I sat in the 3rd row of the left field pavilion behind the bullpen for $16. It’s a good field level seat with excellent sightlines and you get a close-up look at what’s happening in the pen. I park for free one block away (it’s $10 for the sheeple). Angels have won their division five of the last seven years along with one World Series and they draw well over 30K a night in their converted football stadium. The OC is not Milwaukee or Indy.
Sox are just plain out of their minds — as is anyone on a middle class income who allows them to jack the fans and demean their experience by paying these insane prices. I love baseball but I won’t allow these a–holes to rob me.