07 November 2005

Upper deck not for sale in 2006?

Update: The A's ticket office has told me that there are no plans to sell any season tickets in the View level, because they say it is difficult to provide the same level of service there as they do in the lower two levels. No decision has been made on whether single-game seats will be sold in the View level. It's possible they might open the View level for select games (Yankees, Giants, fireworks). They might leave it open all season as the "walk up deck." They might leave it closed for the entire season. I can say that as a season ticket fence-sitter, the likelihood of me going for season tickets has increased. It appears that this move is meant partly to motivate fans like me. We'll find out if they get people like me in enough numbers to counter any backlash they may get in the coming months.

Posters on Athletics Nation
are reporting that the View level (euphemism for upper deck) will not be sold next season. I've confirmed that as of now, this only affects season ticket sales. There is no set policy with regard to regular single-game tickets, but if the A's choose not to sell the View level at all, there are serious ramifications:
  • The upper deck held around 12,000. That should knock capacity down to 34-35,000
  • No more View level promotions like "BART Double Play Wednesdays" or "Pepsi can weeknights"
  • No need to staff the upper-upper concourse behind sections 310-325.
  • Far fewer walkup seats for every date
Consider this a trial balloon for Lew Wolff's ballpark plan. If the ticket supply can be constrained enough to force fans to buy season tickets, then a good business model will be in place for the new ballpark with the demand far less elastic than before. There are definite risks with this new pricing plan. Depending on what promotions are planned for 2006, there will be no tickets priced below $10, and the only tickets at $10 will be the bleachers and plaza bleachers.

There is the risk of backlash. Fans may not respond well to the disappearance of cheap walkup seats in the View level. The walkup situation has become something of an institution, and if A's marketing doesn't properly inform fans of this change, they may find fans either confused by the new ticket offerings or even turned away for certain games. The task for the A's is to handle this with as much diplomacy as possible. There are plenty of fans that think the seats in sections 315-320 are perfectly fine (including me). How do the A's convince them that those seats aren't good?

The upshot of all of this is to find out if the season ticket base can expand. If it does, the A's will have a good subscription base from which they can start marketing a new ballpark. If not, it becomes a reason to leave Oakland, since the lack of season ticket sales will "prove" that Oakland is not a ripe market. It's not fair to Oakland, since the Coliseum is not the same as a new ballpark, but Wolff needs some data upon which he can create a business case for a new ballpark, and that makes us guinea pigs.


jrbh said...

I called the Oakland A's this afternoon and the ticket office confirmed that as of right now, the plan is *not* to sell upper deck tickets in 2006.

While I agree that this is perhaps a dry run for a small, new ballpark, I think there's another possibility too: that attendance will go down -- fewer cheap seats sold -- and Wolff will use that fact to rationalize a move out of town.

In the meantime, what we have is a collection of millionnaires -- Wolff, et. al. -- making it harder and more expensive for poor people, especially poor kids, to go to games. In a public facility, no less. They should be ashamed of themselves.

The move also shows a distinct lack of respect for an Oakland tradition -- the big walk-up for a game with serious buzz. It's something that dates as far back as Reggie's homer chase, Vida Blue's magical '71 season, and Claudell Washington and Gaylord Perry meeting at an intersection of baseball history.

I also don't see how it makes sense as a marketing strategy. Besides freezing kids out, never a PR winner, and besides cutting off the incredible value to poor families of things like BART DP Wednesdays, do the A's *really* think that there are baseball fans holding out from buying season ticket packages so they can get walk-up upper deck tickets?

The guy I talked to in the ticket office seemed to indicate that there had been a bit of blowback over this policy already, before it's really even hit public consciousness.

I strongly urge everyone to do what I'm going to do: call the A's at 510-568-5600 and complain, and get out your pen our your laptop or whatever and write to the A's and let t hem know that what they're doing is wrong. The names you want to address your comments to are:

Managing Partner Lewis Wolff
President Michael Crowley
Vice President and GM Billy Beane
Director of Ticket Operations Stephen Fanelli

The address for all of them is 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland CA 94621

Georob said...

How many bleacher seats are there? That's where I'd knock out seating first because it would not look as visually jarring as an entire upper deck empty. They could then place a big curtain over that area to hide the TV views. The bleacher bums could then relocate to the third deck and pay a little more.

Aren't there a couple of stadiums with no bleacher seating anyway? (Royals Stadium comes to mind)

Here's another thought for a new stadium: Use only temporary bleachers that can be kept stored away except for really big games that are sold out well in advance. Or perhaps also bring them out on "dollar night" promotions as a public service. However, when those seats aren't on sale, they're not there for the TV cameras to see and sportscasters to make comments about.

Lew Wolff is obviously desperate for whatever data(and extra revenue ?) this will provide. I would also guess that this has Bud Selig's blessing as well. But the initial reaction from media and fans will not be good for the A's

It wouldn't surprise me to see the A's back off of this.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the address, jrbh... I'm going to write Wolff and let him know he has my support 100% to do this, and to ignore the reactionaries who think it's still 1989.

jrbh said...

Hey, excellent combination of personal invective and anonymity... you could go far in Republican politics, bozo.

Anonymous said...

With your propensity towards name-calling and shoddy reasoning, I'm assuming that's an invitation?