Yankee Fans Deferred $94 Million for Tickets Over Refunds in 2020

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New York Yankees fans deferred $94 million in tickets they bought for the COVID- shortened 2020 to attend games at Yankee Stadium this season, according to information contained in a municipal bond disclosure.

Those fans declined to take a refund in lieu of using those tickets at a future date, and that decision meant giving up millions of dollars that money could have earned in the bank, but also displays the fan loyalty and financial heft that most valuable team in sports can wield.

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The Yankees, of course, were able to capitalize on that money, keeping it in the bank or using to it to offset losses that were accrued last season when Major League Baseball reported operational losses of $3 billion.

The Yankees are required to periodically disclose ticket sales and revenue as part of the financial arrangement behind New York City bonds that financed the current Yankee Stadium, which opened in 2009. The latest disclosure shows that as of Jan. 1 this year, the team already had $93.9 million in tickets and suite proceeds on the books.

“The cash proceeds reflected above include proceeds from ticket sales and suite licenses in 2020 that ticket buyers elected to leave on deposit and apply to 2021 MLB regular season tickets,” the team explained in a footnote. The Yankees declined to comment.

The strong loyalty figures are a glass-half-full situation for the pinstripers. Despite 2021’s numbers, they can’t undo the loss of all the 2020 games and fan attendance, plus another more than $100 million in anticipated ancillary dollars those fans spend in concessions and merchandise when they attend games in the Bronx. The team had sold $201 million in tickets for last season before the pandemic eliminated all attendance throughout Major League Baseball and the season was abbreviated to 60 games, 30 of them at home.

Altogether the Yankees lost $300 million due to COVID-19, believed to be the most of any baseball team. Only two other teams—the Los Angeles Dodgers and crosstown New York Mets—lost more than $100 million.

The Yankees disclosed in the filing that they sold another $63.3 million in 2021 tickets through June 30, despite the fact fan attendance was limited to as little as 20% of capacity until June 15—and fans had to provide proof of a negative COVID test or vaccination to enter during that time. The Yankees will have to make good on many of those tickets, too, causing a cascading effect that might not level out until the 2023 season.

Overall, through June 30, the Yankees had sold 1.37 million tickets, booking $157.2 million in revenue, according to the document. In the most recent normal season, 2019, the Yankees had $321.4 million in ticket and suite revenue. Still, assuming healthy media rights, concessions and other team-related sales—which aren’t disclosed by the organization—the Yankees remain one of baseball’s top revenue generators. By comparison, the publicly traded Atlanta Braves reported $204 million in total team-related revenue through June—ticket sales plus concessions, shared MLB revenue and national and local media rights.

The stadium was privately funded by by the Yankees at the cost of $1.5 billion. The government floated bonds for the construction at a lower interest rate, but the Yankees are liable to make the annual payments, which at $75 million per annum, are current.

“Despite these limitations associated with the early part of the 2021 MLB regular season and the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic, Yankee Stadium LLC met all of its bond-related obligations on February 1, 2021,” the club said in the disclosure.

Fitch ratings, which rates the Yankees’ credit-worthiness, reaffirmed the stadium bonds’ BBB-plus rating Thursday after the disclosure.

“Ticket and suite license assigned proceeds benefit from a long history of fan support and solid levels of contractually obligated income (COI), supported by the strength of the Yankees as a premier franchise within the MLB and in the robust New York City market,” said Fitch in its ratings note.

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