Some of you may already have seen our story in Sunday’s paper regarding the Mariners and some major changes to their season-ticket structure. They have taken what had been eight different sections (map below) priced for season ticket sales and narrowed them down to four bigger ones (seen above).
The gist of the changes is that prices have gone up in most sections of the ballpark and impact most season-ticket plans. In a couple of sections, the plans have actually gone down, though these reductions are limited to the outfield portion of the Terrace Club, meaning the stretch of seats in the second (middle) deck that run between the corner bases and the foul poles.
In some cases, the reductions are less than half a percent.
Now, the same applies to some of the increases, which in a few cases are also limited to less than a single – or even half of a – percentage point. But try to buy season tickets in some of the more desirable areas of the ballpark, like the lower level or anything fairly close to home plate, and the hikes are more significant.
The Mariners correctly state that this is still not an across-the-board increase, which hasn’t happened since 2008. Prior to that, the last such increase took place back in 2001.
But this is a pretty thorough increase, with only the two outfield sections of the Terrace Club not going up in some way. Some of the prices are staying almost the same as before – the fraction of a percentage point increase – but they are still rising in any event.
One of the bigger concerns outlined by season-ticketholders quoted in the story is that the team did not immediately inform them of the wide-ranging hikes.
The team has since moved to contact each ticketholder on a “one-on-one” basis to explain what is going on. As Mariners spokesman Randy Adamack told me in the story, in some cases, team account representatives made the first phone contact. In other cases, confused ticketholders wanted to know why the unexplained price hikes were there and made the initial calls.
The changes implemented by the Mariners are certainly wide-ranging and not easily explained in a single chart or graphic, so I can understand a bit why no comparative information was immediately made available.
But I can also understand the confusion some ticket-buyers may have felt if they compared their current invoices to old ones they may have had lying around. They would have seen – in some cases – a difference of several hundred dollars with no mention at all in the media or any team literature about a price increase.
Just to understand how difficult it would be to design a comparative chart or graphic outlining the changes from 2012 to 2013, I’ve included two seating and price charts in this post from this year and the revised one for next.
Go ahead and try to figure out where the new sections are compared to the old ones and how prices would be impacted for each ticket plan. You may be able to do it quickly if you know what to look for. But there are certainly a huge number of combinations. In some areas, where the gray seats are, the team has discontinued selling season tickets in those particular spots due to lack of demand.
In other areas, the team has expanded some season-ticket offerings in seats that did not have that option last season.
Anyhow, you can see how difficult it would be to explain everything in one simplified chart or graphic. So, I do understand it when the Mariners say that such comparative charts were not able to be used in a mass emailing like the one they gave their ticket renewal candidates.
One thing you won’t get from either chart I’ve showed you on this blog is an idea of where the team makes the distinction between “upper” and “lower” level seating in certain sections. This is important, because the lower seats cost more, so ticket-holders looking to save on some costs might want to know where the dividing line is in those sections.
Again, that’s not on the 2013 map because the team has arranged its pricing in a way that sees the dividing line between “upper” and “lower” seating fluctuate depending on how close the section is to home plate. So, if you’re right behind the plate, the dividing line where the price rises could be a lot higher up than if you’re looking out around first or third base.
For that, nothing in the team’s literature would help.
So, ticket-holders would have to pick up a phone and call to get the information, or hope that a team sales rep called them ahead of time. With no advance warning of price hikes, those without a readily-available invoice from last year to compare with could, in theory, have just made their payment assuming nothing had changed.
This is what the first ticket-holder quoted in my story says he nearly did. It’s what he also says several of his fellow ticket-holders were about to do before he alerted them to the price increases.
I can understand their concern. As the story says, the team has stepped up efforts to engage in phone contact with all of the ticket-holders up for renewal and, as Adamack told me, just about all have been reached.
But for an overhaul this complex and wide-ranging, a little more forewarning may have spared the team some headaches. Something as simple as an advisory saying: “There have been pricing changes to many sections of the ballpark, call this number for more details” might have sufficed.
I don’t think anyone disagrees that the cost of running a baseball team requires ticket prices to rise from time to time. But at this point, with their attendance dropping yearly, the Mariners cannot afford to alienate any of their best customers with any oversight that could potentially cast them in a negative light.