Thursday, September 4, 2008

Nationals Tickets, Park a Bargain Compared to Others

Many sports fans in metro DC, myself included, have chided the Washington Nationals this year over ticket prices at the new Nationals Park. A team with a short history in DC and not much to offer on the field, opened a new publicly financed stadium in the center of a major construction zone with promises of only half smokes and free T-shirt nights. The jury is still out on whether or not the investment by the city is worth the payoff. Years will pass before we can make that call. WTOP recently offered a mostly rosy view.

Baseball purists and plain old general fans are balking at the idea that the sport is a luxury activity spiraling out of financial reach for families and the common spectator. The Presidential seats behind home plate are currently $325 per game and center field sections, where most teams put their cheap "bleacher seats" are $47-$67. The ownership group paid roughly $450 million for the team and (are supposed to be) renting the stadium for $3.5 million a year. The player payroll is currently $54,000,000 for the 2008 season.

To cover their expenses and, I'm assuming, secure a profit, the Nationals price tickets accordingly. As do most teams. However, we've got it made compared to the fans in the New York market. They currently have three new stadiums on line. CitiField (Mets) is scheduled to open in 2009. New Yankee Stadium also opens in 2009. New Giants/Jets Stadium opens in 2010. Each was privately financed, to the combined tune of $3,700,000,000. Yes, nearly 4 billion dollars. The $700 million dollar Nationals Park seems like a bargain compared to $1.3 billion New Yankee Stadium. Those with the best seats in Nationals Park won't pay even close to the $2,500 per game best seats at New Yankee Stadium. Cash strapped Mets season ticket holders apparently can't trade down on their ticket plans, leaving them with two choices; pay up for the more expensive seats, or get locked out of season tickets all together next year.

NY Giants fans are arguably getting the worst of it. Season ticket holders now have to buy a PSL (personal seat license) in order to secure the right to purchase season tickets. The fee to acquire the right to buy season tickets is anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000. Then you have to actually purchase the tickets.

Not to compare apples to oranges, (and I know Dan Snyder, owner of the Washington football team, would enact a PSL scheme if he could) but the Washington market luckily isn't close to New York in this stadium nonsense. The Nationals just released their 2009 ticket plan pricing and they've actually lowered prices on some seats. Granted, several sections were substantially over-priced (like the center field red seats), but the team is trying to yield to local market conditions. The Giants won a Superbowl last season and they have a storied history and storied family ownership. The Yankees, for better or worse are the Yankees. They had Babe Ruth and Mantle, plus 26 championships. The Mets get a free pass just because they are in the same market as the Yankees. And the Jets, well, they had Joe Namath.

What do the Nationals have to offer? Well, they are working on it. Not much to show at this moment in time, but effort goes a long way, and I'm not just talking about on the field. So, Nats fans, take solace, if in anything this year, the fact that once again, we have it better than New Yorkers. Generally always the case, but this was a particularly easy case to prove.