As Dodgers ticket prices rise it’s fair to ask: Is baseball pricing itself out of the family market?
By now, we should be numb to the cost of supporting our favorite teams. We shrug, and we pay up, and up, and up.
And then, one day, something makes you go, “Huh.”
This was my “huh” moment on Friday: $48 for a seat in the left-field bleachers at Dodger Stadium?
Not every seat, and not every game. But, if you want to sit in the front row of the left-field bleachers when the Dodgers play the Milwaukee Brewers on Father’s Day, that’s $48, up from $35 last year and $30 two years ago. If you want to sit in the back row that day, that’s $43, also up from $35 last year and $30 two years ago.
This is ticketing in the modern era, and it’s not just about the Dodgers. If you can charge more for the front row, or for the exit row on an airplane, you do it. If you can charge more for a holiday game, or a Sunday flight, you do it.
How much does a ticket to the game cost? When the Dodgers put single-game tickets on sale on their website Friday, fans got 290 answers to that seemingly simple question. The Dodgers have divided the general seating area into 58 classifications, up from 31 last year, and divided home games into five categories based on projected popularity, up from four last year.
Tickets on the reserved level were priced from $11 to $48 last year, in six seating classifications. Those tickets range from $14 to $60 this year, in 17 classifications. The “preferred reserve” seats are the ones overlooking a foul pole.
In his first year as commissioner, Rob Manfred spoke fervently about how to sell baseball to the video-game generation. First, he said, get more kids playing baseball.
“We need to make sure that what I think of as the generational aspect of our game continues,” Manfred told The Times. “What I mean by that is that we want parents and grandparents to get their kids into the park at an early age, and instill in those young people the love of the game that our generation has.”
That becomes an increasingly challenging goal as the scale tilts toward maximizing revenue and away from family affordability. The Dodgers offered their cheapest tickets — the so-called “one-star” games — on 16 dates two years ago. The number of one-star games dropped last year to 11 and this year to nine — the only times you can get into the left-field bleachers for $20, all in the middle of the week.
The Dodgers declined to make David Siegel, their vice president of ticket sales, available for a telephone interview. They required that questions for him be submitted in writing to a team spokesman.
We asked what the Dodgers would say to a family that wonders whether it can afford to go to a weekend game — any weekend game — when the lowest-priced ticket is $21.
“We pride ourselves on delivering one of the best entertainment values, not only in Southern California, but also in major markets across the country,” Siegel said via email.
The Dodgers’ average 2015 ticket price of $28.61 was below the league average, according to Team Marketing Report. The spokesman said the Dodgers “are declining to answer” what their average ticket price would be this year.
The Dodgers have sold more tickets than any other major league team in each of three full seasons under Guggenheim Baseball ownership. Ticket prices reflect supply and demand, and the Dodgers have the largest ballpark — and thus the greatest supply — of any major league team.
“Demand for our tickets has never been greater,” the spokesman said. He said the Dodgers expect to sell more than three million tickets before opening day and to reach their cap of 35,000 season tickets.
Nothing drives demand like winning.
If you want a $6 ticket to see the Dodgers play on a weekend, the Colorado Rockies will be happy to sell it to you.
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin
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