Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Get Used To Large Announced Attendances With Sparsely Populated Seats At The New Yankee Stadium

We were recently introduced to the extremely useful FanSnap.com. It is essentially Kayak.com - but for event tickets instead of airline tickets. In other words, the search engine has access to inventory for tickets from multiple sources and aggregates them within a well-designed website (why don't we ever think of this stuff?!) In perusing the website for Yankee tickets, we realized that there is considerably more inventory on the secondary market for Yankee tickets than for any other baseball team. This may explain why Yankee Stadium looked so empty during the first homestand.

This shouldn't come as a surprise - it was months ago when we first pointed out that Yankee fans were justifying irrational ticket upgrades with ideas of putting excess on the secondary market. Finally, we have some proof of the Yankees success in scaring fans into purchasing tickets that they had no intention of using.

The Yankees officially state the maximum capacity of the new Yankee Stadium at 52,235, which includes "approximately" 2,000 standing room only tickets. However, the Yankees announced opening day's crowd of 48,271 as a sell out. Therefore, we will operate under the assumption that 48,271 is the maximum number of Yankee tickets that could ever be on the secondary market (standing room only will only be day of game sales, if they ever start selling them).

Referring back to FanSnap.com, the number of tickets available for the remaining 75 Yankee games is ridiculous. Doing math based on the rounded numbers of tickets available according to the site (which does not include all ticket brokers, or Craigs List), an average of 16,900 Yankee tickets are available on the secondary market for each game. In other words, 35% of the per-game inventory sold by the Yankees is now back on the market, presumably with the intent of making a profit. Even worse, ticket inventory for "premium" games such as the Red Sox and the Mets come in at over 20,000 tickets available. According to FanSnap.com. nearly half of the tickets sold for the premium games were bought just to sell and and these totals don't even include outlets such as Craigs List. For some perspective, the Mets secondary market doesn't have one game with 10,000 tickets available - not even when the Yankees visit their cross-town rivals in Queens.

While large portions of the empty seats at the new Yankee Stadium can be attributed to the fact that the team still has plenty of good (and overpriced) seats available directly from their box office, there are other contributing factors. As evidenced above, the secondary market is completely flooded with tickets. It appears that people who purchased tickets in the "cheap" seats did so with the intent to sell many of the games in order to subsidize their ticket purchase. Premium games in these "cheap" seats are still going for above face value, so there is obvious secondary market demand for them. For such games, the unsuspecting ticket brokers (hardcore Yankee fans forced to upgrade to larger plans to keep their tickets) and regular ticket brokers (the people who take advantage of the free market) are taking profits, and the stadium is full.

However, when hardcore fans fail to attend the non-premium games and ticket brokers are unable to sell them, the result is a half-empty stadium for mid-week games against Oakland, as we saw last week. We were stuck at work last Wednesday and had to sell a pair of Grandstand tickets for $10. We were happy to get that, as some people were giving them away on Craigslist.

Aaron Elstein touched on the financial aspect of this in a recent Crain's NY article, but there is also a fan-friendliness angle to the new-fangled ticket sales model. By encouraging fans to sell tickets, the Yankees have made it harder on everyone. Typically, nobody feels bad for ticket scalpers. In this case, many of the "scalpers" are simply defacto ticket brokers, hawking their extra tickets so they can afford to attend the number of games they originally intended on going to.

Other Yankee fans, who can't commit to attending a game until the last minute, are left without an obvious venue to purchase affordable seats - even while outlets represented on FanSnap are flooded with tickets. Many of us are well-versed in the ways of Stubhub, but the majority of casual fans have never purchased tickets from an online broker and are leery about being ripped off. These people would rather go to Yankees.com or go to the Yankee box office to buy tickets for games that clearly aren't in high demand.

We don't have access to the numbers, but it can easily be assumed that walk-up ticket sales in the new Yankee Stadium have dramatically decreased. How couldn't they? All of the available tickets are on sale through websites like FanSnap.com, and are deactivated a few hours before the event. Affordable tickets are wasting away in cyberspace, while they could be in the hands of the box office to sell on the day of the game. Until this is fixed, Yankee fans who are priced out of the new stadium will have to deal with the frustration of seeing empty seats while they watch at home on TV.
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