Cubs hold the line on season ticket prices

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
1:15
PM CT
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com
Archive
CHICAGO -- After a 96-loss season, the Chicago Cubs are not raising season-ticket prices for the 2014 season.

It's the third year in a row the Cubs aren't raising overall ticket prices under the Ricketts family ownership. The Cubs raised prices before the Ricketts family's first season in 2010.

"We're not increasing anyone's invoice for 2014," Colin Faulkner, the Cubs' vice president for sales and partnerships, said in a phone conversation Monday.

According to Team Marketing Report's 2013 Fan Cost Index, the average Cubs season ticket was $44.55, down 3.8 percent. That was still the third-highest price in baseball. That average doesn't include the premium club box seats, according to the FCI's methodology.

Some might wonder why the Cubs aren't lowering prices again. The Cubs drew 2,642,682 fans to Wrigley Field this season, their worst attendance since 1998. It was still the 12th-highest figure in baseball.

The Cubs lost a franchise-record 50 home games and have lost 197 games overall in the past two seasons, as the front office helmed by Theo Epstein stocks up the minor league system. Since the Ricketts family bought the team from Sam Zell and the Tribune Co., the Cubs have lost 375 games in four seasons.

Did they feel pressure to lower prices, either from fans or internally?

"I think there's always pressure to do lots of different things," Faulkner said. "We looked at data, we talked to fans. We felt holding the line was the right thing to do.

"We lowered prices last year in three different areas. I think people can look and ask if it made a difference or not. We know that every dollar we bring in goes back to the baseball side."

For the casual fan, this doesn't mean much. The Cubs haven't released single-game ticket prices, which will be slightly more expensive than season-ticket prices for the third straight year. Single tickets are also priced "dynamically," which means the Cubs can increase them on a game-by-game basis, depending on several different factors, including scarcity.

The Cubs will also still have five pricing tiers, but juggled the number of games in each one. This year, there are six more gold games and three more silver games, which are the third- and fourth-highest-priced tiers. There is one fewer marquee game (most expensive), four fewer platinum games (second-most) and four fewer bronze games (cheapest). This affects single-game ticket prices, obviously, but not the overall season-ticket packages.

Given the poor play of the team, it's no surprise the Cubs have struggled selling single-game tickets.

"The decrease in attendance is in single-game tickets," Faulkner said. "In 2012, we had the largest season-ticket base in franchise history. We were very close to that in 2013, a few hundred seats difference."

One way the Cubs are combating this is with a new cheaper section dedicated to single-game ticket buyers.

A 350-seat section down the left-field line of the upper deck will be priced at $19 for every game, no matter the tier. These tickets won't be available on a season-ticket basis and will only be delivered digitally.

"We want to make sure the person buying the ticket for him and his two kids are the ones actually going to the game," Faulkner said.

The Cubs are doing this partially to test the digital delivery-only method, as they did with dynamic pricing in the bleachers, and partially to give fans a static priced option that applies to every game. The left-field section where this is being applied is typically empty.

"We wanted to make sure we had a $19 ticket," he said.

The only ticket plan that is going up for 2014 is the combination night/weekend plan.

That’s because there will be more games in the plan after the Cubs won the right to add more night games during stadium renovation negotiations with the city this summer. Last year, there were originally 56 games in the plan. This year there will be 63.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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