March 17, 2009
Rob Iracane is co-editor of Walkoff Walk and contributes the occasional New York angle to Big League Stew.
Next month, the New York Yankees will debut their state-of-the-art shiny new Stadium in the Bronx, chock full of luxury suites, martini bars and $2500-a-pop seats behind the visitors dugout. The House that Jeter Built is conveniently located in a former public park next to the old dump, so folks who had season ticket plans won't have to learn a new subway route to get to the ballgame. Unless, of course, they've been shut out entirely from nabbing tickets.
From the Wall Street Journal:
Jay Jaffe and a group of friends shared Yankees tickets for 11 years, but they won't be making the move to the new stadium. The 20-game packages of $25-a-game grandstand seats they hoped to get were sold out. Instead, the Yankees suggested $85 seats deep in right field.
Jaffe is one of the baseball blogosphere's most notable denizens, having written for Baseball Prospectus, the Wall Street Journal, and Sports Illustrated, among other fine publications. He's also one of many aggrieved Yankee partial season ticketholders who have seen their attempts to reproduce their ticket plans from the the old Stadium to the new Stadium fail. But why? Yankees COO Lonn Trost promised us that more half of the seats in the new joint would cost $45 or less, and that almost 25,000 of the equivalent seats from the old Stadium wouldn't go up in price.
However, would-be partial season plan buyers had to wait in line to purchase tickets behind folks who wanted a full season plan. And since there are only about 30,000 seats in the building that are $45 or less, most fans flocked to the affordable seats. Add in the people who upgraded their old plans from partial-season to full-season and you've got yourself a crunch for 41-game and 20-game plans. There just weren't enough cheap, good seats to go around, yet there is a glut of unsold luxury boxes and available $350 seats (Yours for the asking)!
But as Yankees fans, this is merely the deal we signed with the pennant-winning devil. With great success comes a larger and larger money grab. We can't expect our favorite team to spend half a billion dollars each offseason getting the best pitchers and first basemen money can buy without turning around and breaking our bank accounts on ticket prices. Can you really blame the Steinbrenners and team president Randy Levine for wanting to sink their teeth into as much cash as possible? They finally got their chance to rob some land from the citizens of New York for a new joint and they pounced, getting some tax-free bonds from the city to help and writing off some of the construction costs to help lower their revenue-sharing payments. It's really a brilliant (if devastatingly heartless) business move, but the money has to come from somewhere.
That's where Yankees fans and local corporations come in.
Jay and his pals eventually settled on nosebleed seats, and there is no shame in that. New Yankee Stadium will have excellent sightlines from every seat, even the ones situated in the so-called stratosphere. It will have open concourses with ample opportunities to discard your hard-earned paychecks on concessionary items and souvenir bobbleheads.
Lonn Trost was also right about one thing: Most ticket prices didn't go up. My company has bought a full-season plan for 10 years and will actually be paying five dollars less per ticket to sit in the exact same location: the front row of the right field loge section. To make things even better, the upper deck will no longer hang over our heads so we can have a chance to snag some home runs for the first time ever. So you may call me selfish when I say this after hearing of my good fortune, but Yankees fans are not standing on a moral high ground when they complain about the high prices and lack of access to affordable tickets.
After all, when we decide to cheer for the richest team in professional sports we have to realize there's a significant price to pay.