Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The furor grows over the relocation process

I must admit, I am about as sick of hearing about the New Yankee Stadium relocation drama as I am about the PED drama. Sadly, the media latches onto a story and can't let go. Local newspapers first caught on this weekend, running quote-heavy stories as a platform for jilted fans to air their grievances. The NY Daily News even had Bill Bramhall create the HILARIOUS cartoon seen above. This is the PERFECT story for New York City talk radio to spend hours talking about and they are definitely up to the task. Mike Francesca announced on his radio show this afternoon that WFAN is working hard to schedule an interview with Yankees Chief Operating Officer Lonn Trost for Wednesday's radio show. Even the blogosphere was a bit late to the party on this story, but now the interwebs are incensed. Baseball Prospectus author Jay Jaffe took the Yankees to task for leaving long time partial-plan ticket holders with terrible seat choices.

The media has taken on a noble cause but they need to stay focused. In order to make Lonn Trost squirm and not spin his way out of this PR nightmare, Francesca needs to ask him the following questions:
  1. Why didn't the Yankee ticket office and outside consulting firm, Turnsyle Ticketing, follow the guidelines set forth in the original relocation package? What (other than greed) inspired the Yankees to allow ALL partial plan holders to upgrade to full season plans even after the original deadline for voicing such interest had passed?
  2. Why was there such incompetence in the Yankee ticket office (embarrassing typos in emails, contradictory information, etc.). Where was the leadership and why did the crosstown-rival Mets relocation process go relatively smoothly?
  3. How many seats are being held back for single game seats in order to play up the "half of the seats in the Stadium are under $25" angle? Partial plan season ticket holders are being shifted all over the Stadium and being bumped from plans and they deserve to know how much of that is being caused by seats being held for the general public on sale. Transparency has been an issue from day one of this process, hidden behind the wordy legal diatribe also known as the relocation packet.
  4. How much did the recent deal with Stubhub factor into the relocation process and scare tactics forcing partial plan holders to upgrade to full season? The Yankees receive a considerable commission on every ticket sold by season ticket holders on Stubhub. Did the Yankees knowingly scare season ticket holders into upgrading to full season packages with the intention of cashing in on the Stubhub commissions when they inevitably became ticket brokers for the team? This sounds a bit like a conspiracy theory but the fact remains that by forcing fans to upgrade to full season plans, the Yankees guaranteed a sold out Stadium in a terrible economy, while also turning on the faucet to another revenue stream in Stubhub commissions. Fans buying full season plans and stretching their budgets created the need to turn to Stubhub to get back some of that investment. True fans upgraded to full season plans in order to guarantee previous seat location and playoff rights, scalpers upgraded to full season plans in order to profit off of the new Stadium, and the Yankees ended up profiting on all of them. Make Lonn admit the Stubhub connection was key in this screwjob for loyal fans.
  5. What are the Yankees going to do about the unsold "Greatest Seats in the World" once the season starts. A brand new stadium is going to look silly on TV when all of the prime seats are empty. In retrospect, did the Yankees get a bit too aggressive with the $350 pricetag of those seats and are there any plans to change the price? Further, was the $350 price worth the hassle, not only due to the absence of interest, but also considering the significant shifting it caused, further muddling the relocation process for the ticket office and the fans. There was no way the average fan was going to be able to afford those seats and most downgraded to different locations.
  6. Are the Yankees worried that with an ever-deepening recession and bad PR created by the relocation fiasco will affect future ticket sales? A good portion of the large season ticket holder subscription base is comprised of Yankee fans and profiteers who were looking forward to the new stadium. When the shine wears off, will ticket sales slump considerably? A lot of this has to do with putting a winning product on the field, but how long will the Yankees be able to operate profitably while acting as if being a Yankee fan is a privilege and not a right?
Those questions are wordy and a bit emotional, but they will get to the bottom of things fairly quickly. The fact remains that the Yankees are a huge business, and they ran the ticket relocation process in the way that made them the most money. All of the pitchforks and torches in the world aren't going to cause the Yankees to drop their capitalistic approach and I have pretty much come to accept that.

Update (8:20 PM): Lonn Trost addressed some of my questions above in an interview with Newsday's Neil Best. My favorite:
Is it true there are seats in the bleachers from which you can't see parts of the field? "Yes, but we will have TVs in the walls there."

That's not the same thing as seeing it live, is it? "We had a choice of selling it to somebody or not. If you come to the stadium you'll see there are TVs in the walls. [Some views are obstructed] a little bit, but for $12 it's a choice of taking it or not."
If I were an advisor to Lonn Trost, I wouldn't recommend such a defiant tone during a time of PR upheaval. To each their own...

Talk about it in the Stadium Insider Forums!


Leonora said...

He would just tell you to be grateful to have any seat at all, and that you should be glad they're so cheap.

The ticket office is now telling people that if they haven't gotten an invoice by now they're probably not getting one and that it's because they let so many people upgrade to full season. This is part of them throwing away the requirements for upgrading, and taking on new business before relocation.

Why did they even send a packet or have anyone fill out a questionnaire if they just threw that all out the window? Ugh, that's the part that makes me the angriest.

Bxboy said...

Thanks for your excellent work of keeping this issue in the spotlight.

The Yankees screwed up and must be taken to task.

9nine9 said...

My big issue is that brand-new season-ticket holders off the street should NOT have jumped ahead of people who, in my case, have been buying 46 games per season for 12 years. Existing season-ticket holders? Fine. My second big issue is that I was never alerted to the discrepancy between seats given to full-season-ticket holders and plan holders. I heard nothing from the Yankees between October and the end of January, when I was assigned God-awful seats.

Leonora said...

Newsday put up some more of the Trost quotes I thought you might enjoy: http://www.newsday.com/sports/baseball/yankees/ny-spytix0225,0,7699042.story

Here's my favorite part:

Trost said many potential concerns were addressed in a relocation guide sent in September.

"If they had read that, they would have understood," he said. "The reason partial plans aren't getting what they wanted is because we don't have the inventory."

Anonymous said...

If you dont like your seats...DONT BUY THEM!!!!!
It is not a "god given right" to go to a yankee game.
Stop complaining, it will get you nowhere.
If yankee fans want to make a statement...DONT GO!!
And if you buy them, SHUT UP!!

Ross said...

@anon -
Lonn - is that you? Apparently you didn't take the time to read what I wrote, so I won't even justify your comment with a response.

9nine9 said...

Ever wonder why every post on every blog that takes the Yankees' side on this issue is posted by Anonymous?

forego is my witness said...

I want Trost to tell us how they went from "there are no bad seats in the new stadium" to "yeah, those bleacher seats have horrible views, waddaya expect for $12?" It's INANE how that restaurant was never factored into the bleacher views.

Anyway. They will NEVER ever apologize for the shitty relocation job. Anonymous just doesn't get what many of our complaints are about.

9nine9 said...

I hope Anonymous gets laid off by the Yankees as soon as this utter disaster of a relocation process is completed.

Larry said...

Why don't you guys contact Chuck Shumer? He just tore Ticketmaster and Live Nation a new one in a Senate hearing Tuesday and if there is anyone who gets the ticketing problems people face and can do something about it, it's him.


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