08 November 2005

SJ City Council approves site acquisition

The San Jose City Council approved the purchase of the former Stephens Meat plant and a $600,000 environmental impact study to be done by HOK on the Diridon South site. This is expected to be one of many steps that need to be taken for San Jose to secure the entire site.

Let's not panic, people

All of the posts at Athletics Nation and other boards reek of overreaction. There's a lot of information going around, and it's important to keep everything in perspective.

First, the only ticket prices that have been posted and verified are those for which season tickets will be sold. This is largely a marketing decision that aims at the parts of the Coliseum that will have the most consistent service. The problem with the previous situation is that for games where you could expect 25,000 or less, it was difficult to determine the proper staffing levels. In fact, it was common on Monday and Tuesday nights to see no concesssion stands open on the View concourse and the outer reaches of the Plaza concourse. That may not mean much to fans who are, well, used to the situation, but it makes for a pretty time-consuming affair just to get a hot dog if you were unfortunate enough to sit in the affected sections. Since those concession stands will only be open for high-attendance games, it makes sense to only sell season tickets for sections whose level of service will be relatively consistent and homogenous regardless of the game date, time, or attendance scenario. Season ticket holders should feel that they are getting some kind of value-added aspect to their commitment, and this pricing scheme moves things in that direction. Remember that Wolff is a hotelier and fully understands basic and advanced concepts of customer service. There's plenty to criticize in the handling of this matter, but I'll get to that later.

Second, the A's needed to establish greater price differentiation among their tickets. The pre-2006 pricing structure was probably the simplest in the major leagues. That made it easy for walk-up fans, but it made it difficult for the A's to sell value among the pricing tiers. Even low-revenue teams like Kansas City and Minnesota had more sophisticated pricing structures than Oakland, where the entire upper deck is a single price. The new pricing structure is much more graduated than in years past. The obvious holes in the structure are at the $12, $16, and $24 levels (based on single game prices). $12 or $16 can be filled by the View level seats. Before you start screaming in a comments post, keep in mind that similar seats at the Metrodome cost $18. At Kauffman Stadium they're $12, and across the bay at China Basin they're $19 or $24 depending on whether the games are on weekdays or weekends. View level seats are usually subject to heavy discounting, and that probably won't change if the View level seats are sold. We can probably say goodbye to the Double Play Wednesday promotion, since it may have hurt the A's seasonal ticket revenue in the long run. Think more along the lines of more frequent newspaper family packs or half-price nights for students (wishful thinking? I'm not a student).

The argument above assumes that the View level seats are sold, which is not a given. The A's are in a tough position regarding the View level. There's no way to cut corners on service without completely eliminating concessions and security to parts of the View level. The split-level concourse design prevents the A's from easily closing off sections of seats while providing service to those that are open, as the Dodgers do with the Pavilion bleachers in their outfield. The A's could go with a two or three-tiered pricing scheme with the View level, say $16, $12, and $8 or $6, but they'd have to keep the facilities open on the upper concourse to justify the price hike along the infield.

There is an interesting potential benefit to this. Since the big-ticket games (Giants, Yankees, BoSox, fireworks) usually have high advance sales, pushing season ticket holders (A's fans) to the lower decks relegates more of the opposing team's fans to the View level.

Whatever happens with the View level, the A's have a few months and much initial feedback upon which they can put together a viable single-game pricing strategy. In doing that, they can do the one thing that would help clear up a lot of the confusion: FIX THE WEBSITE! It looks like they just pasted the new table of prices without updating the seating map or the interactive pricing map guide. Fans looked at the site and saw two different prices for seats along with no explanation for the missing View level in the table. Bad information begets FUD (fear, uncertainty, doubt). Get the graphics fixed and post a message about the View level that explains it once and for all, and you'll put the nervous nellies' minds at ease. The sooner it gets done, the better. I have the feeling that the calls and e-mails from early Monday afternoon elicited responses from the ticket sales staff that weren't properly prepared or informed. By the time I called just before 5 p.m. on Monday, it sounded like the ship was in order. Still, there's still a good amount of confusion (and perhaps misconceptions) among some of the most faithful fans, so there should be some sort of release that addresses their concerns.