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April 20, 2009
Sports bubble watch, mid-April edition
I have a short op-ed in today's Metro NY about the deflating sports bubble, prompted by my visit last week to the New York Mets' Citi Field last week at which a large chunk of the expensive seats went unfilled. Other recent signs that $110 ticket prices and 8.5% unemployment rates don't mix:
- The New York Yankees failed to sell out their second home game of the season, breaking a streak of 39 straight sellouts, and the empty seats continued into the weekend. After Sunday's game, New York TImes columnist George Vescey wrote: "Yankees management claimed an attendance of 43,068 on Sunday, but you could not prove that by the gaping sections of expensive seats from dugout to dugout. Either the Yankees have not actually sold those seats, or the bankers and brokers with the corporate seats are taking weekend jobs to make ends meet in this rotten economy they helped create."
- MLB teams have already officially abandoned their "baseball is recession-proof" line, and teams are responding by rolling back ticket prices: The Milwaukee Brewers are offering some seats for $1, the Minnesota Twins are selling tickets pegged to the Dow, and there's a long list of other discount plans. (Reports that the Houston Astros and/or Toronto Blue Jays were offering season tickets for $76 total look to have been erroneous, or at least I couldn't confirm them.)
- Fans who've bought pricey seats figuring they could sell off those they didn't want to use are finding few buyers on sites like StubHub and Craigslist. Reports Bloomberg News: "Sion Nuseiri, an accountant from Brooklyn, said he bought two season tickets with the idea of selling off enough to wind up with a profit. Instead, the offers he gets are below the $15- $35 face value for his tickets. ... 'I actually thought I would make some money,' Nuseiri, 23, said in an interview. 'Every time I put something on Craigslist, people are trying to lowball me.'"
- Speaking of StubHub, if you want to go to tonight's first-ever night game at the new Yankee Stadium, you can get upper deck seats ($22 face value) for as little as $6, and seats in the $55 second-deck "main level" for as little as $10.
So far, no signs of the Mets and Yanks rolling back prices to reflect the new economic realities, but if the empty seats continue — and, more important, if fans start eschewing the team ticket windows when they realize StubHub is so much cheaper — things could get mighty interesting.