Friday, February 27, 2009

Is $20+ for standing-room tickets a reasonable amount?

While Squawker Jon is able to write about Mets baseball games, there's a whole lot of controversy going on in Yankeeland that has little to do with the spring training action.

One of them is the obstructed-seats controversy. But another one should be the outrageous price the Yanks are planning on charging for standing-room-only tickets. Here's what's been happening:

I squawked last year about how there were going to be new stadium seats in the bleachers with obstructed views due to the sports bar in center field. Yankee ownership thought it was enough to put in TVs so people could see the action, instead of rectifying the sight view. And then they had the nerve to charge $12 for these seats!

After this became a huge controversy - Neil Best of Newsday has done a great job of writing about it - Yankee COO Lonn Trost tried to do damage control. First, he defended the seat prices to Best, telling him "we will have TVs in the walls there,"and then snapping:
"We had a choice of selling it to somebody or not," Trost said. Some views are obstructed "a little bit, but for $12, it's a choice of taking it or not."
Who's advising Trost on PR, A-Rod? Sheesh.

I guess even Trost eventually realized that this was not the best response. So he went on WFAN's Mike Francesa this week to try to do damage control. I say try, because he was not all that successful. He complained about "misinformation and disinformation" and fans' "lack of understanding." He said there weren't obstructed seat views, but architectually shadowed seats. And then he told Francesa this, which directly contradicted what he said to Newsday just a few days before:
"Those seats are being sold at $5, not $12," he said. "I think some seats may have gone out improperly invoiced. Those are going to be corrected, but those 600 seats are going to be $5."
But while Francesa did get this concession out of Trost, albeit with no explanation or admission of wrongdoing, he left unchallenged something even more ridiculous - Trost's announcement that the new stadium will offer 1000+ standing-room-only tickets per game in the $20 price range.

My brother always points out that these days, with big-screen HDTVs being more and more affordable, that you now can see the game much better at home, than in the ballpark. And at least you have a seat there!

I've never liked the bleacher seats myself - I detest seats without backs, there's no protection from the sun during day games, and they were cut off from the rest of the stadium in the old ballpark - but the bleachers are a comparative bargain to spending over $20 just for the privilege of standing in the stadium. Good grief.

On WFAN, Trost also made the point that 90% of the stadium seats are $100 or under. Very misleading, of course - it's not as if spending, say, $85 for one ticket is reasonable. And as Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus noted, the $85 seat he was offered had a lovely view of the foul pole instead of home plate (click here to see just how bad the seat is.)

Was Watching's Steve Lombardi wrote back in 2007 that he feared the new stadium would be like an infamous luxury vessel:
Thinking about it some more, I’m starting to wonder if Yankee Stadium will become like the Titanic when it set out to sea – with all the rich people staying on top, living the high-life, and all the poor people jammed into the bowels of the ship, crammed in there, huddled, and wondering what it’s like for the affluent folks in the nice parts of the vessel.
Good news, Steve. While Trost danced around the fact that these foul pole seats are bad - and expensive - he did say on WFAN that the peons - err, fans - who ponied up for the standing-room-only non-seats would still be able to spend money - I mean, get access - to all parts of the ballpark, like the Hard Rock Cafe, the martini bar, and the steakhouse. Well, that's a relief!

Trost also explained about how so many fewer seats are available in the new stadium. But whose fault is that, exactly? It's ownership's fault, for deliberately making a new ballpark with many fewer available seats. And for counting standing-room-only seats as part of the stadium's new capacity, which means that there really are 1,000 less seats than previously announced.

And appealing to the rich isn't exactly working - for all their marketing efforts, the stadium still has seven unsold luxury suites, and over 1,000 of those premium seats (those tickets ranging from $350 to $2500) unsold.

But don't expect the prices to go down. Trost told Neil Best this week that "our prices are our prices." Nice!

This is one of the reasons I miss George Steinbrenner. Because, for all his faults, he at least tried to think about the average fan every once in the while. I don't get that same sense from the team's front office now. And that's a shame.

Neil Best has been the, well, best at exposing these outrages - he's lived up to the Watchdog title of his blog. Which makes it even more of a shame that Newsday, his paper, is now planning on charging for access to its website. Let's see - take a web site that has been extraordinarily successful, and hit up those readers who made it a success with exorbitant money demands during a recession. Sounds like the Yankees!

I have been hearing horror stories about the Yankees' season ticket process. If you have a story of your own to share, please post it as a comment, or email it to me at Thanks.

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