Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Don't Expect Standing Room Only Tickets Anytime Soon

One of the factors spurring on the popularity of newly built baseball stadiums are standing room only tickets, typically made available for sold out games. At Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia, fans are known to line up overnight and form tent-cities for big games. For this year's opening day ring ceremony, Phillies fans waited hours in the rain and cold for the opportunity to snag 500 SRO tickets that would cost only $13.

The wide concourses and open-air build of new ballparks makes them extremely conducive to standing and watching the game from public areas, instead of having seats. There are plans for standing room only tickets at both the new Yankee Stadium, and Citi Field, but sales of these tickets have been put on hold indefinitely.

In Queens, the Mets set expectations low right off the bat, announcing that internal evaluations of Citi Field would take place before any standing room tickets would be sold. In the Bronx, there have been mixed messages from the start. The calendar is now in the month of May and according to our source in the ticket office, "[there is] still no word on the SRO tickets...my guess is we won't be selling them anytime soon."

Both teams are stuck between a rock and a hard place. If they put the standing room tickets on sale immediately, they are giving fans another reason not to splurge on the still-overpriced premium ticket offerings. The Yankees have become so desperate to sell these seats that they have slashed ticket prices and have even enlisted the help of Yankees legend David Cone, who is cold-calling prospective ticket buyers. From a business standpoint, this would be a bad time to put standing room only tickets on the already crashing market.

On the other hand, delaying the sale of standing room only tickets may generate more bad PR for the new stadiums - the last thing that the Yankees and Mets need . Fans who have been looking forward to purchasing affordable tickets directly from their team's respective ticket office may feel that they are left out in the cold because the teams are unable to move their overpriced ticket options.

When reached for comment, Yankee spokeswoman Alice McGillion said "we have always said that we would not sell standing room tickets for some time until the flow of the fans in the building is clearer. When that flow during the game becomes more predictable we will make a decision on standing room."

If that was the message that was relayed all along (as the Mets did in Flushing), there would be far less confusion. In February, COO Lonn Trost spouted off on the radio and announced that standing room only tickets would be $20. The team has yet to announce the prices of these tickets. in April, ticket office representatives shared divergent information, referencing tiered pricing, which confused everyone.The Yankees have also openly used the unsold SRO tickets as a crutch for their disappointing early season attendance, even resorting to some fuzzy math. According to Yankees Media Relations Director Jason Zillo, as quoted in the NY Daily News following opening day, 2,000 standing room only tickets were unsold - the reason for drawing "only" 48,271 fans.

It is easy for the Yankees to use SRO tickets as an excuse for not cracking the 50,000 mark yet this season, but their official website lists the attendance (including SRO) as 52,325. Therefore, even if the Yankees had sold those 2,000 tickets on opening day, it still wouldn't have been a sellout, and the Yankees wouldn't have even come close to a sellout since - not even for the Boston games.

The Yankees don't owe standing room tickets to anyone. However, poor internal and external communication among team entities has led to confusion by fans and scrutiny over attendance by others. It might be time for the Yankees to develop a better PR strategy.
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