Postseason ticket rejection saddens Mets fans, new stadium in part to blame

The New York Mets held their ticket lottery for the National League Division Series yesterday, and me and pretty much everyone I know were among those getting the “Sorry, try again next round” letter. Which put us in good company, according to Mets fan Twitter:

Now, part of this is just the calculus of a team just returning to popularity in a big market: There are only so many tickets to go around, and no baseball fan in the city is willing to bet on Mets playoff appearances becoming an annual occurrence, stocked young pitching staff or no.

There’s another big difference between now and the last time the Mets made it to October in 2006, though, and it has nothing to do with jettisoning Paul Lukas’s least favorite uniforms. Rather, this will be (assuming the Mets don’t suffer an even more catastrophic collapse than their last couple) the first postseason played at the Mets’ new stadium, and as I noted last night for Vice Sports, Citi Field is way smaller capacity than its predecessor:

In 2006, the Mets still played at Shea Stadium, which—as was the custom in the 1960s, when it was built—could hold a hefty 57,333 fans. Citi Field, born 2009, falls more than 15,000 fans shy of that mark, though it does offer an additional 3,000 standing-room-only slots. The organization settled on this design decision for a couple of reasons:

  1. With all the luxury seating and clubs taking up more space on the lower levels, an additional 15,000 seats would have sent the new upper deck into a stratosphere far worse even than Shea’s famed nosebleeds.
  2. A smaller capacity meant it would be easier to sell out games without offering steep discounts on tickets.

That’s worked out pretty well for regular season games—Citi feels, if not exactly intimate, at least not cavernous, and the Mets have mostly been bad enough for there still to be plenty of discounts. Now that it’s the postseason, however, that’s an extra 20 to 30,000 fans per round who’ll be stuck watching at home.

There are other reasons why non-season-ticket-holder Mets fans might be getting the cold shoulder more than expected about now — for one thing, the team is apparently holding back some postseason seats to try to entice fans into plunking down deposits on season plans for 2016, despite not having indicated yet what prices will be for 2016. Plus, StubHub and its ilk have utterly changed how ticket markets operate — while it’s not completely linear, it has mostly meant that tickets to unpopular games are easy to get for dirt cheap, while the sky’s the limit on popular ones.

All of which means that the trend that rich fans are increasingly buying a larger and larger share of sports tickets should be expected to be even more true for playoff games, in all sports. Too bad New York City couldn’t have left Shea Stadium standing in the parking lot for big postseason series, like in olden times.


14 comments on “Postseason ticket rejection saddens Mets fans, new stadium in part to blame

  1. Actually I can get Mets tickets for donating blood. In fact I got a pair quite by accident for June. I gave them away to an actual fan so I don’t recall the opponent. But was told the face value of them was 18 dollars. I see that price jumps to 57 dollars for the same seats for the Yankees. No wonder I only go to minor league games.

  2. Oh, regular season Mets tickets are easy — between free and half-price tickets, I averaged about $10 per ticket this season. (Didn’t bother with the Yankees or Red Sox games.) It’s the postseason ones they’re charging through the nose for — or rather, requiring you to plunk down several hundred dollars for 2016 tickets in order to have a shot at them.

  3. For the uninitiated – which are most potential customers – ticket allocations for post season games are far more complicated than most assume.
    It’s not just “rich” customers who end up with tix, it’s also those with connections
    and the swarms of other MLB personnel
    who attend – franchises are obligated to
    accommodate tix requests from the other franchises.
    On top of the time honored courtesy of allowing season tix holders (individual and
    sponsors) to double their number of seats (usually in a different location )there are the “MLB club allotments” “MLB office allotment” “MLB official sponsor allotment” “TV/radio right holder allotment”, “umpires allotment”, “competing clubs allotment”, a few tix held back for last-minute in-house (front office/players) use and seats taken out of sale for the aux press box that tends to be an entire upper section. The
    number of seats taken out of potential public sale can be from 300 to 800 per opening – with the series dates being the higher number. There’s nothing a franchise can do about all of these allotments, it’s been part of the biz for almost a century.
    I’m not rich, but my connections with other MLB franchises helped me to secure 2 – 4 tix per game for several post season series. I did have to get my request in before labor day and fork over the entire amount for all series by 9/15, the normal refund policy for unplayed games with a wait as long as Thanksgiving .
    Mets customers will just have to get used to the same tix availability restrictions that have been normal in Boston since the 60’s and par for the course in most of the newer mallparks with smaller capacities.
    No matter how much baby boomers want to cling to Shea and the 70’s and 80’s,
    that time is long gone – welcome to the world that their pro sport obsession has wrought.

  4. It wasn’t Mets fans demanding a 15,000-seat smaller stadium, though, it was the Wilpons.

    And offering full postseason ticket strips not just to current season ticketholders but to anyone who puts down cash toward next season’s tickets is a new twist. I see why they’re doing it — rationing tickets by letting just anyone line up for them was a major lost revenue opportunity — but this really is “Show us $1000 before we’ll let you see a postseason game.”

  5. In my experience, the bit about setting aside tickets for sponsors and the like doesn’t become a major factor until the World Series, at which point it’s unbearable.

  6. All part of the gentrification of professional sports audiences.

    I guess it works for everyone but the majority of taxpayers who end up funding the new stadia and the fans with incomes too low to reasonably afford tickets.

    Of course the two groups are mostly the same people, but then that’s not an accident is it?

  7. … and baseball has nothing on some other sports when it comes to “setting aside” tickets for dignitaries.

    Champions league finals, olympic finals, superbowls…. you name it. It is customary for 50% of the tickets to those kinds of events to be reserved for dignitaries of one sort or another (politicos, UEFA/FIFA/IOC/NFL elites etc). And if more than half of the tickets go to them and their invited guests/fellow shills/grifters, how many seats do their bodyguards and personal security consultants occupy?

    I sometimes wonder if any ordinary run of the mill fans can find a seat at all at these sorts of events.

  8. No matter how many seats you allot to “regular fans”, the vast majority will still end up watching from the comfort of the sofa at home. Sure, it would be nice to have a few more to distribute, but a few thousand doesn’t mean much when the demand is potentially in the hundreds of thousands.

    Setting aside some playoff tix for new season ticket purchasers isn’t really new. Having lived in the WashBalt region for many years, I know both the O’s and the Nats have used it as an incentive in the past. I don’t know if it was without knowing next year’s prices.

  9. Every team offers Playoff strips to people who sign up for next year’s packages. People who had STHs this year will get the discounted price and people who are buying for next year get te retail price. It’s how I became a Brewers 1/4 STH in ’08.

  10. And as far as the stadium goes, what do you want, a church built for Easter Sunday? Empty seats depress the atmosphere, as I’m sure you’re witnessed many times at New Shea Stadium, Neil. (See, when I take a stand against saying a proper name, it’s anti-corporate. For you, it’s to place your own feelings above those of the oppressed ethnic group that supports the name by a wide majority.)

  11. Oh, this is all about different forms of rationing, no doubt. It’s just that the old system gave precedence to people who could sleep out overnight by the ticket office, while the new one lets those who have the cash to put down on season ticket deposits (or to pay StubHub prices) cut the line. Depending on your perspective, this is either a more efficient way to monetize the free market, or a way to stick it to fans who supported the team all year but don’t have a ton of cash to put down. (It’s both, actually.)

    And I don’t know the Brewers situation, but the Mets are offering full strips to every 2015 postseason game to anyone with even a 20-game plan for 2015 or 2016, which will eat up 42,000 seats in an awful hurry. (Full STHs get to buy extra tickets on top of their regular seats, too.) Clearly somebody is desperate to cash in now in case Cespedes leaves town this winter and takes the fan excitement with him.

  12. I remember the playoff-tickets-for-this-year-with-season-tickets-for-next-year scheme being done by the Sharks and Sabres since at least the late ’90’s. I doubt either of those teams originated the practice.

  13. Offering tickets to all postseason games to anyone who even buys a 20-game miniplan is relatively new, though. In fact, originally the Mets said that miniplan holders would only get one ticket per postseason series — it was only when I called the ticket office that they said, “No, you’ll get tickets to everything.”

  14. The Oakland A’s have done the miniplan thing the last couple years, although the deposit could only be used for miniplans in the first deck or the second deck on the infield ($35 seats and up). Glad I didn’t fall for that to get tickets to the 2014 playoffs that never came.

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