Amid another disappointing season of Padres baseball, the one bright spot highlighted by the media has been the increased attendance presumably due to the excitement generated from an active offseason. While that is good for the longevity and quality of Uncle Ron’s weekly poker game and blow fest (TM), it appears to not be good for Padres 21 game season ticketholders. As we’ve detailed extensively here at Gwynntelligence, Mike Dee and the Padres front office have carried out a relentless assault on the 21 game program this season. Just to summarize the last year, Dee has eliminated flexible ticket trading for new customers, added capacity controls for tickets that are traded, and restricted 21 game season ticketholders from being eligible to purchase All Star Game tickets. While not directly related to the 21 game program, let’s not forget that Dee also raised prices on parking while stating “he had to” (he didn’t), raised concession and beer prices, closed off formerly open to all fans areas such as The Pier and the Western Metal Supply porch, added garish advertising anywhere he can squeeze it, and of course oversaw a team that may finish 10 games under .500 after all of this. In the past, Padres ownership would recognize their ineptness on the field and attempt to make amends by keeping tickets affordable and offering fan friendly programs. Under the Dee regime, we’ve seen more of the “let’s see how much money we can wring out of our fans” philosophy than ever before.
That brings us to now: season ticket renewal time. Renewal packages went out in the mail a couple weeks ago and Padres personnel are doing their annual push to lock in renewals at the game with $3.50 bottles of J. Roget. As a long time season ticketholder, I am usually eager to renew regardless of the performance on the field because I enjoy going to games. But after looking at the new policies for 2016, this year might be different. Let’s review what’s on the table:
- A 20% increase in ticket price
- No flexible ticket trading for ALL 21 game plan owners. No more grandfathering into ticket trading.
- Still no guaranteed All Star Game ticket access
- Additional purchased tickets are no longer priced at your season ticket price. They will be priced at the floating, dynamic ticket price, meaning weekend games may be double the cost for additional tickets, weekend games against the Dodgers/Giants will be more than double.
- Additional benefits: none
So let’s look at these key points individually and figure out if the plan is worth buying or renewing for 2016.
Ticket Price Increase
Ticket prices have stayed fairly constant for a few years now to placate fans after terrible seasons. While I’m not overjoyed at the prices going up, I can be rational and recognize that it’s due for an increase, if anything, to keep up with inflation. Additionally, with payroll up slightly this season, at least there is some confidence level that increased ticket prices are being rolled back into the product. If this was the only negative uncovered with the 2016 program, I’d have signed up, swiped the ol’ credit card, and sucked down a glass of terrible “champagne” after renewing.
The End of Flexible Ticket Trading
This is the big one. As I’ve detailed before, flexible ticket trading is the single most valuable benefit of a Padres season ticket package. The savings on season tickets are quickly gobbled up when you are unable to make a game. With a little advance planning, it was possible to just trade tickets for games you couldn’t make it to for games you COULD make it to. No more. You buy the 21 game package, and you are stuck with those dates. If your kid is sick and you can’t make a Saturday game, welp, you’re boned. For fans like me, I have one seat, but trade tickets for other games when my wife wants to go to a game with me. She goes to four games a year, so way less than another seat on a 21 game package. That plan is out the window.
It should be noted that after doing some brief research on other teams’ sites, flexible ticket trading is alive and well for 21 game packages. Here’s a quick sampling:
- In some cases like the Washington Nationals, they limit it to 5 total trades per season.
- The Mets allow unlimited trades, and also have no designated unused ticket nights; they allow trades of any unused tickets for any future game.
- The Yankees allow flexible ticket trading and have an unused ticket credit system
- The hated Mariners allow unlimited ticket trading
- The Angels allow trading of unused tickets for designated, but unlike the Padres 5 designated days, they offer 54 days you can trade into.
- Just doing some quick scanning, the Rays, Phillies, A’s, Brewers, Astros, Royals, Twins, Braves, Tigers, White Sox, Pirates, Indians, Rockies, and Reds all allow ticket trades for ALL season ticketholders
Basically, the Padres are bucking the industry norm to further devalue the 21 game package. It should be noted that that flood of new season ticket sign-ups after the December flurry of moves that was reported? I’ve heard from several sources that the majority of those plans were 21 game packages. This particular change is finally being noticed by the general public now that renewals are coming due. I’d say that Wonko over at Gaslamp Ball, who I’m pretty sure doesn’t care for me one bit for some reason, is one of the most reasonable and well informed Padres fans on the series of tubes. He noted this week:
In the end, this puts the burden on the customer to now liquidate tickets that would go unused. Let’s not forget that Stubhub (and the Padres)(and MLB) take a cut that ranges between 20%-25% of that sale. As we’ll see later, not attending 1-2 games, which is bound to happen over a 6 month season totally cancels out the discount per game offered to 21 game package holders.
No Guaranteed All Star Game Tickets
This isn’t new news. Unlike the past All Star Game hosts including the most recent games in Cincinatti and Minneapolis, the Padres have decided to lock out 21 game season ticketholders from having access to even a single All Star Game ticket. Wayne Partello tried to pawn it off onto MLB, but all MLB does is limit the pool of tickets each franchise can allocate to their fanbase. Once that allocation is issued, the Padres are free to allocate them out to their fanbase as they wish. In our case, the Padres have decided to reward their 1/2 and full season ticketholders, their corporate sponsors, their contracted vendors, and their employees before their 1/4 season ticketholders. Obviously, I understand the rationale in incentivizing the purchase of a larger package, but it still seems odd to me that every other host has issued a limited guarantee of tickets to those customers, but not the Padres. Coupled with the loss of flexible ticket trading, you can start wondering if the team even wants 1/4 season customers or if they’d rather phase it out completely.
Dynamically Priced Additional Tickets
As we’ve talked about before, dynamically priced tickets never benefit the fan. For those Monday night games that draw 15k people, the price never drops below the base price. For a game with any demand, prices will double or worse. One of the great advantages of a season ticket plan was that you could buy additional seats at your season ticket per game price. This came in handy when you had family or friends in town and wanted to pick up an additional 4 tickets for them. Mike Dee announced this was disappearing, and ALL season ticketholders would now pay the much higher dynamic price. This one sucks, but similar to the price increase, I’d be OK with it under the rationale that it was being rolled into the payroll and operations. Unfortunately, it’s coupled with all of this other stuff.
There are no new benefits this season. The (improved) Compadres Club is coming back the same, which is good because the economics of it were greatly improved this season. Unfortunately, it’s also open to all fans, season ticketholder or not, so there is a lot more credits floating around (and thus inflation), as well as more competition to win the limited auctions and merch. Regardless, there is really nothing new to report that would counteract the disappearing benefits.
So where does that leave us? Do we renew or not renew? It’s a tough question. For fans like me, I like the feeling of being a member. I like knowing I have a list of games that are already purchased that I can put on my calendar and plan around. But I also like having some freedom. The last thing I, or any other fan, wants is to feel like going to a game is a burden. You don’t want to be sitting at work tired and ready to go veg out on the couch with a DIPA, and then groan, and remember that you have an untradeable ticket to use that evening. In most businesses that don’t involve a product with limitless demand, customers are wooed and convinced to purchase that product. In the case of the 2016 Padres, they are dealing from a perceived position of power with the hosting of the All Star Game and appear to be profit taking as much as possible. They are not wooing their customers, they are pushing them away and diminishing the product while raising the price. This strategy may work in 2016 thanks to the crutch provided to them courtesy of the ASG, but it won’t work in 2017. Especially not if the team has another mediocre year.