Solving Yankee Stadiums’ problems

Jason has a mega-post on Yankee Stadium, with a very savvy observation about all those empty seats I mentioned on Sunday: even the high rollers who didn’t get laid off may have a strong incentive to avoid the high-rent district:

A few weeks back, we went to a friend’s house for an afternoon. While watching the Masters with my friend (a Wall Streeter), we were discussing this and he made an interesting point. He said to me: “Jason, even if I had those great seats that cost $2500 a ticket, I can’t take a client there. It’s not worth the risk.” I asked him about what risk he was talking about and his answer surprised me as I hadn’t thought of that: “If someone recognizes me sitting behind the dugout and it comes out that I used my Firm’s resources for those seats, and we’ve taken TARP money from the government, I don’t want that sort of publicity or getting calls from The Post.” He’s not a famous guy at all, but there’s a fear that someone might see him and he’ll get “outted” for using Firm money to attend a game. He also told me that he’s not alone with this fear.

Much, much more there, including whispers — relayed from Pete Abraham — that the Yankees may ask for a do-over on pricing, refunding some money to those who sprung for the big money seats and resetting the prices in a direction that approaches reality. Hard to say how this will work given that it’s the utilization of those seats as opposed to the sale of them that’s the problem. By all accounts they’ve been sold. It’s just that the types of people who bought them aren’t the kinds of people who tend to you, know, enjoy a good ballgame.

I suppose the calculus is that if the price is reset, the owners would be more willing to put them on the secondary market at lower prices, thereby increasing the chances that schmoes like Jason and me would snap them up on Stubhub. I don’t know enough about that market to know if that would be effective, but my gut tells me that the ultra-rich who own those seats aren’t the most efficient users of the secondary market. They have several dozen pairs of shoes and a house in the Hamptons that aren’t utilized optimally, so why wouldn’t they just leave their Yankees’ tickets lying around too?

I’m prepared to admit that I’m trafficking in class-based stereotypes, though, so maybe this will work. It anyone has any better ideas on how the Yankees can undo this mess, however, by all means let’s talk about it in the comments.

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  1. MooseinOhio said...

    Just brainstorming here. 

    Wouldn’t it be great if some form of tax deductions could be given to firms or individuals that donated those tickets to organizations such as Make-a-Wish or community groups that serve kids so they can go to games free and sit in some awesome seats. 

    If no tax break then maybe MLB could reduce the Yankees luxury tax significantly for buying the tickets back and giving them away as this could help hook a new generation of fans in the largest media market.

    Young kids and night games don’t mix but they could donate week night games to teenagers or young adults and provide them a place to go and serve as a carrot for attending school, getting good grades, or performing community service.

    Link up these Wall Street firms and some youth organizations to develop mentoring programs and let the Wall Streeters take the kids as part of the program.  This way the good folks that are on Wall Street can help serve their community in a positive way, help develop some young adults and earn some good will from the public for their acts of service.

  2. Jason @ IIATMS said...

    They can (and probably should) lower the prices, refunding the original buyers.  One might argue that that’s not right, that they bought something and the value then dropped.  But I’d argue that they must refund any price difference to keep those ultra-rich/corporations in good standing.  If you alienate those buyers, it could be devastating next year. 

    They can (and probably should) contact those who bought the original tickets and seek to repurchase them for either resale or use for in-stadium promotions.  Give a few away to a lucky family.

    They can (and definitely should) ease the “seating gestapo” and allow kids to move up during BP, 3 hrs before the game.

    They can (and probably should) allow fans to move into the empties after the 3rd or 4th inning.  If the original seat owner shows up late, the fans who moved up would have to move back.  But it’d keep the good seats full and be a nice good faith measure.  Logistically, it will be difficult but it can be done.

  3. YankeesfanLen said...

    Combining a couple of the good thoughts already posted, why not make the unsold tickets available to the season ticket holders who supposedly got “bumped” to less attractive seats in the new Stadium?  All winter the News and Post were finding these people who were outraged, now how about letting them move up and you could fill the seats they vacated.
    Charge them some kind of premium, but it would free up more “cheap” seats that can then be re-sold.
    I absolutely do not believe that NYS could not be filled every day, and the marketing in the Times, etc. hasn’t worked so far.  Once again Hal, I’m available tonight for a $99 seat, give me a call, want to see how many homers Giambi can hit over this right field wall, as long as the Yankees win.

  4. Mark Armour said...

    Could a team have a model like this:
    – put the tickets on sale at $2500 on December 1 (price and date arbitrary)
    – reduce the price of unsold tickets to $2000 on January 1, and continue to reduce the price in order to get them to sell.
    – if a fan wants to wait to get them cheaper, he takes the chance.
    – if a fan wants the seats and has the money, he gets the seats.

    Personally, I wish baseball was much less popular so that I could go sit whereever I wanted in stadiums that were perpetually 2/3 full.  I was hoping the latest steroid scandal would turn people away, but we need something better.  Perhaps some game-fixing would do it.

  5. Pete Toms said...

    I read that NOBODY from CitiBank showed up for the opening of that stadium.  They entertained NOBODY.  Not that I feel sorry for them.

    Assuming the economy rebounds, will this type of B2B business development rebound along with it or has there been a permanent change?

  6. Mark R said...

    I know there’s a lot of nuance here and bankers are people too and blah, blah, blah. But seriously, the next time I hear somebody COMPLAINING about scrutiny on the money they’ve been GIVEN by the government so their firms don’t finish what they started and implode the economy, I’m moving to Somalia. You think it’s unfair that people are asking questions? When you’re on food stamps the government tells you what food you can buy.

    The new stadium was mostly built in an era where finance was accounting for 40% of profits in the U.S. economy and would be for the foreseeable future. That era isn’t coming back and shouldn’t.

  7. Matt S. said...

    If before the season started, you were to say ‘one week in the New Yankee Stadium will be a disaster and CitiField will be a hit’ the whole of New York would have laughed at you and rightfully so. The Mets are notorious for screwing things up and the Yankees are, well, the Yankees. Maybe that has changed. Here we are wondering if the shape of the NYS is pushing balls out of RF at a prodigious rate, laughing and/or crying at the empty field level seats and cringing at the Yankees on-going pursuit of people who don’t even care about baseball to fill their seats.

    Just across the Throgs Neck you can see a game in a shiny new stadium with some great food and you can still get in the door for under $25 (though the field level is also the least crowded place there). I never would have guessed things would go this way. I have been to CitiField twice already and will be going as often as I can. The last time I was there, I heard an announcement encouraging fans to come early to watch batting practice from the field level, regardless of their seats. No Seating Gestapo in Queens, just baseball for baseball fans (mostly anyway).

  8. J. McCann said...

    Supply and demand, always the answer.

    Step 1 is definitely to go to the people in the sold out seats right behind the uber expensive seats and say “Yeah, we screwed up.  Do any of you want these at say $1000 per ticket?”

    And go from there.

  9. RoyceTheBaseballHack said...

    RE: Pete’s Entry

    My employer does a lot of Federal contract work. Not only are we forbidden from offering our clients anything – even a turkey sandwich for lunch, but they’re forbidden from accepting it. As a part of this, we have to keep any hint of impropriety out of our day to day dealings. If a subcontractor offers us game tickets, a trip to Mexico to yank some marlin out of the water, or even dinner, we decline. For the industry I’m in, this is just how we’ve had to do business.   

    Traditionally free-spending industries are finding themselves under the glare of scrutiny, so
    to your point, Pete, yes. I think there’s been a significant change to the traditional B2B to business development environment. Things might loosen up some in the coming years, but right now, many business people are just as afraid of accepting and enjoying a high-dollar perk as they are of offering it.  To that end, not only The Yankee organization, but every sports franchise who has been banking on big money suite and entertainment revenue will continue to feel a lot of pain. So will the people who planned to work supporting them; caterers, local entertainers, etc.

  10. Mark R said...

    It’s hard to pretend you’re creating value for clients by schmoozing with them in Yankee Stadium box seats now that it’s apparent you weren’t even doing that while working long hours in your office.

  11. Aaron Vowels said...

    Why not tie their ability to purchase next season’s tickets to use percentage? I believe that’s what they do with tickets at Churchill Downs here in beautiful Kentucky.

    For example, you must fill your seats, or at least run your ticket stub through the turnstile for 65-70% of home games in order to be eligible to buy those same tickets next year.  This will enable firms to give those tickets away to people who would want to use them, charitable organizations, etc. without appearing to be gorging on stimulus money and if/when the economy turns around, they would still have access to those tickets to shmooze the big boys who could probably afford their own tickets.

    If you didn’t make the 65-70% quota, then you would not be eligible to purchase those same seats and you’d have to jockey with me and the Shyster for the cheap seats on the “cloud” level.

  12. Pete Toms said...

    Royce, agree with you.  This is a BIG problem for owners (again, not that I sympathize) across all sports.  Corporate dough is responsible for so much of the insane wealth generated by pro sports in recent years….I bet they (the owners, presidents, marketing folk) spend a lot of time wondering how they are gonna replace this money.

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