16 May 2006

Now I think I get it

Tonight's post comes from Section 241 (Plaza Reserved), in the upper tier. More noise measurements, though I'm certain the results are getting skewed by the suites that hang over these seats, creating some solid reverb. In any case, here are some results:
  • Typical ambient noise without drums: 72 dB
  • Typical ambient noise with drums: 75 dB
  • Typical batter intro: 83 dB
  • Melhuse grand slam: 102 dB
  • Swisher 2-run bomb: 96 dB
I had recently bought a 12-pack of Diet Pepsi that happened to have those specially marked cans offering Plaza Reserved seats for $5. I figured I needed to get a set of noise measurements from dead center, so here I am. To my surprise, a group was occupying the choice seats, and the ticket guy nearly laughed when I asked for "anywhere in the front-row, sections 240-242."

When I found that my seat had already been taken, I decided to move up a few rows and stretch out. Beneath me in the better seats were a few hundred folks, all in a large group. They all came early and got their oh-so-ironic Big Hurt jerseys, and they were quite an enthusiastic bunch. Many of them went back and forth from the East Side Club, where beer and food were available.

Then it dawned on me: group sales has to be a big reason for the third deck closure. In the past groups were relegated to the BBQ Plazas or Terraces (AN Day), the Skyview Terrace suites, luxury suites, or simply a bunch of seats that were in a contiguous set (Fremont Day). The advantage of these seats over the third deck is the rather lavish staging area immediately behind them, the East Side Club. ESC has been underutilized because of its location and the fact that the A's usually didn't sell those seats except when demand was high. For group sales, it makes a ton of sense because it provides amenities that aren't available anywhere else in the stadium, coupled with inexpensive seats. If you've gone to one of these company gigs, you know that the location doesn't really matter a whole lot - you're not trying to impress clients with a suite or club seats, you're trying to boost morale among your employees.

By closing the third deck, the A's could provide a fairly compelling option that fills a need that new stadia address automatically: the party deck. The group seemed to be having a good time (it doesn't hurt that the A's are up 12-2 going into the 8th inning). It will certainly help their marketing operations, since they'll have a decent gauge of how well they sell to small, medium, and large groups. Busch Stadium and Petco Park have capitalized on this by building in such accommodations. At Busch, the Cards elected to build fewer luxury suites and more party suties to cater to groups. At Petco, an entire floor of the Western Metal Supply building can be rented, or it can be split into two or three suites.

You may remember this rendering from a few months ago:

In both the LF and RF corners, below the luxury suites, are what have to be party suites. Why put those there? If you were here tonight, you'd see why: the upper tier of Field Level sections 101-103 and 131-133 are completely empty. Just as apartment buildings get converted to condos, it makes sense to convert these seats into a more sellable space. Such is the nature of a party suite or deck.


FrStUp said...


I usually find you to be a level-headed fellow, though we often disagree. But this “deck closure as group sales catalyst” theory seems awfully flimsy. First off, the closed 300 seats outnumber the Plaza OF seats like 10:1. Second, the East Side Club has been used as an anchor for really big groups (say, 100 plus) for a while, not just this year. But such groups are really rare. The more common groups of 25 or so are no more served by the ESC than they were the WSC.

But mostly, I think you misunderstand the usual group sales dynamic. A company will typically wonder: 1) Can we even get 25 people to go, or will we buy 40 seats for the 15 people who actually show up? And, 2) How much will this cost us? By nixing 3rd Deck options your theory speaks only to the high-end groups...big firms, lotsa people, cost not such a big concern. That's a frame of reference well suited to the new ballpark with a new clientele per the standard new park vision. But in the old park, it's a square peg/round hole view (which of course is what I think about the 3rd deck closure overall).

Dueling anecdotal impression, not meant to be analogous: I was at Little League Day April 23, as I have been many times before. One of my favorite little aspects on these days is the splotches of color scattered around the park, with kids in their matching LL jerseys. A red splotch here, a yellow one there, etc. This year there were far fewer splotches (though a few more in the pricier seats). I'd offer a somewhat informed WAG that there were 30-40% fewer Little Leaguers than at the same event last year. I'm convinced the lack of 3rd Deck group terrain was a major factor, what with the huge overall decline in numbers of seats in the $15 or less retail price range.

And it shouldn't be left unsaid: those seats in Plaza OF, above the first row? Horrible seats, with most of the outfield literally out of view. Perhaps not that important to the group sales crowd, but to a regular fan actually watching the game, they're grotesque. I can't imagine there's another section in any MLB ballpark that blocks of such a huge swath of the field.

Marine Layer said...

Ah, I knew I'd get this type of reaction. I didn't say that group sales was the reason, it's simply a reason.

There are plenty of other rationales I've delineated in the past over the third deck closure. Mostly it comes down to the team not wanting to selling what amounted to as many as 10,000 general admission seats, which for most games is exactly what the third deck was. Sections 315-319 have a unique core audience, but the rest of the third deck had varying numbers of fans, of which many moved down to Plaza and Field levels once they got in the park.

The fact is that the Coliseum had few places where they could hold 100-200 people or more and stage them nearby. ESC certainly got use but it was often disconnected from the game experience. Now that Plaza Reserved is always open, so is ESC.

I'm not saying it's right - far from it. I went to the game for $5 so I'm not their target audience. I've gotten dozens of e-mails from fans who feel alienated. I sympathize greatly. But it makes sense for the exact reason you state: they are trying to overlay the economics of a smaller premium ballpark onto the existing Coliseum, like it or not.

They're trying to understand how they can sell every possible area of the park, and by extension a new park as well. Notice the DiamondVision cap game recently? It seems it has a different sponsor every night. The tarps don't have ads now, but by having them up there they can gauge ad revenue potential. I pointed out before the plasma screens on the Field level concourse. They don't show scores or in-game replays. They only show ads.

Georob said...

Was last night "Fremont Night"? If so, I'm curious if there was any reaction when(and if) it was announced on the PA.

I saw a post of Drummer's on the OAFC board in which he said that "things would get ugly" if a Fremont deal was finalized before the end of the season, and that attendance would "plummet" especially once ground was broken.

This is obviously the "same old same old" we'll hear from Oakland supporters, but it DID get me to thinking if frivolous lawsuits and court injunctions to stop a Fremont ballpark is something we might expect to see

Remember, this IS the Bay Area; and while such an action would have no legal foundation it COULD serve as a big enough distraction to possibly intimidate Lew Wolff. All the more reason why the transit issues need to be addressed sooner than later. For once environmental advocacy groups get involved, you've got a whole new "ball game"

Packing List Enclosed said...

Attendance will plummet? That's hilarious... You'd think these people have never been further away than 10 blocks from their houses.

FrStUp said...

I dunno about plummeting after a Fremont announcement; I’ll keep going to Oakland games, disgust notwithstanding. But take a look: down nearly 2,700 per game YTD, despite a better team, higher expectations, and the supposed scarcity incentive to buy tickets sooner. I’d say the FU attitude towards a big segment of the Oakland fanbase is already showing results.

Kevin said...

Difficult to say whether the closing of the 3rd deck has been a failure from a financial standpoint. Though attendance may be down, revenue from ticket sales may actually be up, given the elimination of many of the lower priced seats. Remember too that there is also a cost savings in not having to open up the upstair concessions and restrooms.

I think we will have to wait another year or so to judge whether the closure was a success or failure.

Anonymous said...

A's attendance will plummet if the A's move to Fremont? He must think the A's are moving to Fremont, New Hampshire.

Marine Layer said...

That's not an FU attitude frstup. It's apathy. If it wasn't there'd be a lot more public outcry.

Jeff said...

And there it is ML. You nailed it. Apathy on the part of the Oakland "fanbase" will prove fatal to the OAFC's hopes.

Georob said...

You know, the A's could help us resolve a lot of arguments by releasing data on where the fans come from. Surely they have enough zip code data from advance ticket sales to draw some reasonable conclusions.

Oakland will no doubt be a sizeable contributor, but I've always thought that Southern Alameda County is where the largest contingent comes from. And it is THAT group that a Fremont park should have no problems retaining.

My concern is Central Contra Costa, and it is that lucrative group that the A's may be at risk of losing. And somehow, I don't see the OAFC being an advocate for fans in that area (even though a lot of PLAYERS live there :))

So Drummer, instead of evoking words like "history", "tradition", and "legacy" to keep the A's in Oakland, you might instead want to use "Walnut Creek", "Alamo", and "Blackhawk"

That'd get Lew Wolff's attention!

drummer510 said...

I have acknowledged Contra Costa as a very large contigent of the A's fan base numerous times. Contra Costa is the fastest growing region in the Bay Area, why would you want to lose those many of those fans, especially when a large number of them take BART.

I do feel that you will see a drop in attendence if Wolff announces he's moving to Fremont during the middle of a season. I think that is part of the reason why Wolff has been reluctant to fully say that the deal is done or making hints that he does not want to leave the district. he knows he will lose attendence. The word I used "plummet", was an exaggeration, sorry if it confused people. No attendence won't "plummet", but you will see a decrease. It's great that I'm so popular on A's boards these days. I gotta watch what i say now, make sure it's pc.

Back to ML's post, it's not just companies and little league groups that buy group seats, a lot of schools get group seats for field trips or parties. I do wonder if the closure of the third deck and the increased ticket prices have dissuaded many of these groups from buying those packages.

Marine Layer said...

The reason nothing's been said about the deal being done is THE DEAL IS NOT DONE. There's a long way to go and plenty of challenges to face. Attendance has always and will continue to be mostly influenced by performance.

This year the A's have gone a long way towards informing potential group sales customers about available options. The website has been revamped to show all price levels. With the reduced capacity, it was a good way to let customers know that small group sales haven't completely disappeared.

Georob said...

Fess up, Drummer. You used the word "plummet" to get a reaction from the already emotional crowd on the OAFC board. Just as JRBH did here with his "I'm cancelling my season tickets" proclamation.
This is why I make sarcastic comments in response. Rhamesis has to play the role of "reasoned" moderator, I don't.

It's amazing that so many just assume that the A's will lose at least HALF their fans by moving only 20 miles away. Has everyone forgotten how many Raider fans stayed loyal to the team even though they were FOUR HUNDRED miles away?

But I guess that's how we discuss things in today's world. Whether it be immigration or a new baseball stadium, playing to peoples' fears is very effective

FrStUp said...

Wait a sec...attendance down nearly 3,000 per game from last year, and suddenly that's apathy? Are people more apathetic than last year or any other recent year? It couldn't possibly have anything to do with 25% ticket price increase, elimination of the best cheap seats, and a general "f*ck off Oakland" posture from Wolffish, could it? To suggest it's just a cresting wave of apathy is to sound foolish...or partisan.

ML, I'm sorry to say, but your out-of-Oakland slant is showing. Given your status as a Fremont booster, paid or otherwise, a front page disclaimer would seem in order, at the very least.

Georob said...

Okay, attendance is off by about 60K so far. Roughly half of that we could have picked up had we not closed off the third deck for the opening Yankees series(the weather was a factor there as well)

So that leaves us off by about 1500 per game. And yes, I'd attribute much of that to former third-deckers who feel like they can't get in on the cheap and move downstairs.

But I, and probably the A's expected this. Which is why I was hopeful that the team for once would get off to a good start. Well, being at or near .500 by the end of May COULD qualify for that, we'll see.

However, I really feel we're not going to see the TRUE effect of closing off the third deck until next year. And for now, we're going to take another big hit by not being able to squeeze in 50K for the three game Giants series.

So here's a question: Let's say Barry Bonds was about to break AARON'S record instead of Ruth's. Do you think Wolff would pull off the upper deck tarps for this one series?

As a public service to the Bay Area, I say he would.

jrbh said...

georob, I didn't cancel my season tickets to get an emotional reaction, and especially not from people like you; I did it because I'm disgusted with A's management. It's a feeling that's been building for years and reached the tipping point with Wolff's decisions to blow off Oakland and close the upper deck. I've been to four games this year so far, and I imagine I'll get to about 15, down from my usual 40 or so.

(This isn't just about Wolff, I have to admit. The team on the field seems strangely uninspiring this year.)

Vis. the closure of the upper deck, I'd guess that about 50,000 or so fans will be shut out of their chance to see major league history this weekend as Bonds takes his shot to pass the Babe. I don't know what that's worth, to those fans, or to baseball in general, but I'm guessing it's more than the piddling, small-minded stuff the A's management team is getting out of it.

(And no, for god's sake, don't take this as an endorsement of that sleazoid Bonds.)

Marine Layer said...

That's right, attack the messenger. I've extended an offer to anyone in the stay-in-Oakland crowd to submit info on the Oakland mayoral race. I've asked about other site ideas because frankly I'm stumped. I've stated that I'll post directly to this blog whatever anyone submits (some editing for spelling/grammar notwithstanding).

I've gotten ZERO responses to the requests. That to me is apathy. Richard Linklater once said, "Withdrawal in disgust is not the same as apathy." That's true, but you'll have to prove that it's the former. I hear of isolated cases of fans withdrawing from season ticket purchases and such. I don't feel a groundswell of disgust. If it's there, it's not protesting outside the ballpark or at the BART station. It's not making many signs in the ballpark. It's not vocal enough to show up on local TV newscasts.

Tell you what, frstup. If you have ideas on how to boost the A's revenue while keeping last year status quo, you send them to me and I'll post them. I'm all for a counterpoint. It simply hasn't been there.

FrStUp said...

Hey, ML, no messenger attack intended. I think the deck closure and new team attitude account for the 15% drop in ticket sales, and frankly I think that's hard to refute (lost sales may not equal lost money, mind you). Oakland residents and pols may be apathetic, it's true, and that may be why the A's ultimately leave...but that's not why sales are down this year, as you claimed. I don't blame you for Oakland apathy, of course. But neither should you measure said apathy by the scarcity of info Oaklanders send to you.

Your site is great and the resources top notch. But with your posts on Oakland apathy or A's marketing, readers should know that there's a partisan at work alongside the professor.

Anonymous said...

If you read ML's previous post regarding how attendance figures are counted, then you know that a difference of 1,500/game this early in the season isn't a huge deal.

To back up the idea that attendance figures are questionable in general, I took a tour of the Coliseum on an off day last year during the season. The A's director of stadium operations gave the tour and admitted that the official attendance figure given for each game is way way off from the actual attendance (paid or present). He all but admitted that they guess and then pad it.

ML, just want to let you know how much I appreciate this blog site and the tremendous depth of your research. Thank you.

FrStUp said...

It's now down 3,111 per game per the attendometer on the front page. That gulf will go UP after the weekend SF series. And that's what the A's say; if there's fudging, as you observe, presumably the real decline is even worse.

Georob said...

Actually, the gulf will go DOWN. Home dates 21-23 last year were as follows:

May 18 vs Boston: 42K
May 30 vs Tampa Bay: 25K
May 31 vs Tampa Bay: 11K

That's an average of 26-27K per game. The A's will do better than that this weekend.

Obviously things will even out. But like others have done, you're using "selective data" to make a point.

FrStUp said...

The 19 dates both this year and last include a NYY series and an LAA series, and no BOS or SFG games. Both include three weekends. So as of this moment, the two schedules are quite comparable. The impending SFG series will make them less comparable; who's using data selectively.

The fact remains that the improved roster, with higher expectations, plus the supposed scarcity incentive to purchase tix, was supposed to make attendance increase, according to the A's and those in favor of the 3rd deck closure. That exactly the opposite is proving to be true speaks volumes, using as apples-to-apples a comparison as you're likely to find here at the quarter pole.

Georob said...


Before I dissect your "season ticket cancellation" again, let me say that your little "TM" next to the "IDLF Dumbest Politician" statement had me practically on the floor laughing.

Now, I fully understand your frustration with A's management. But if I were that upset, I'd sever all ties and not go to ANY games. But cancelling tickets to some games and still going to others makes no sense. It may be just FOUR games, but Lew Wolff is STILL making a profit off of you.

You say that the "tipping point" was the closure of the third deck, fair enough. That was announced in DECEMBER my friend, on the same day that the season schedule was announced. Therefore, in all likelihood, you bought your partial plan AFTER the third deck announcement that was the "last straw" It doesn't make sense.

I can't imagine anyone buying a partial plan without knowing the season schedule, but let's suppose you did. You then waited THREE MONTHS to cancel it? Your announcement of the cancellation to us was made on or after March 20, and when I expressed doubts you insisted that you had gone IN PERSON that day to cancel it.

It doesn't make sense, Jeff. None of it makes sense. Except that you said it to score rhetorical points and get everyone riled up, (it certainly did ME)

Call it "splitting hairs", or engaging in a "pissing match", but someone's got to call these nonsensical arguments from the "Oakland only" supporters
for what they are.

They don't make sense.

jrbh said...

I think, georob, that you decided that I *must* have said I'd cancel my season tickets to rile people up, and worked backwards from there. It's the only way your focus and take on this particular issue makes any sense to me.

What I said was that the tipping point was the closure of the 3rd deck *AND* Wolff's decision to blow off Oakland. The second part of that is a slow burn, so to speak. I can't tell you at what precise hour and day I realized that Wolff's Oakland plan was essentially a charade, but it happened, and it has profoundly changed how I feel about the A's because there's no apparent way to stop or influence Wolff.

My decision to cancel my bigger season-ticket plan -- made and acted upon precisely when I said it was -- and cut way back on attendance was made reluctantly, and my disaffection, while deep, isn't as deep right now as my history with the team. I've been an A's fan since Bat Day, 1969, georob. That's quite an investment. There's A's stuff strewn all over my house, and if you asked some of my friends to describe me, "A's fan" would be the first thing out of the mouth of a lot of them.

So, yeah, while I now see a future without the A's, both figuratively and literally, I suppose I'm like someone in a bad relationship: it takes a while to leave. That's why I still go to games. I even have a good time at those games. But I know it's not going to work out long-term.

That's my last word on the subject. If you want to question my motives or my veracity, find someplace else to do it. It doesn't contribute to the debate here.

By the way, the partial season ticket plans, except for one smaller one where you can pick the games, work based on days of the week of the games, not who they're playing. So you can pick a plan well in advance of the release of the schedule, and many people do.

Anonymous said...

Saying that fan apathy is caused by Wolff threatening to move to Fremont is laughable. What percentage of the A's attendance reside in Oakland? 10%? 15%?