Doubles in Marlins ballpark not hits alone but also new ticket price range
By Zachary S. Fagenson
A roof isn't the only thing rising in the new Marlins ballpark in Little Havana. Prices season ticketholders will pay are on the way up as well.
Though it's not an apples-to-apples comparison, prices in some similarly located sections will, in some cases, cost double or more in the new ballpark when it opens in spring 2012 and the team moves from just south of the Broward County line.
Season ticket prices along first base line, in the Base Reserved section, of Sun Life Stadium now cost $28 per game while similarly placed seats in the new field cost $30 to $50 a game, according to pricing the Marlins recently posed on their website.
Seats right behind home plate and the recently unveiled fish tank backstop are to cost season ticketholders $200 to $395 per game while a similar seat in Sun Life Stadium costs $190, now the highest ticket price for 2010 listed on the Marlins' website.
Even prices on some outfield seats seem to have crept up.
Seats in the current stadium's Outfield Terrace and Fish Tank, which overlook right field, come in at $11.50 and $7.50 per game respectively. Seats in the new ballpark's Bullpen Reserve, the closest section overlooking far right field, come in 3at $15 to $20 per game. Meanwhile seats in the section above, called the Home Run Porch, are to ring at $12.50 to $15 per game.
For the first 90 days of sales the team is offering existing season ticketholders discounted prices on some sections.
But season ticketholders may find respite in a parking pass they'll receive with every two season tickets. And fans won't have to deal with scorching South Florida sun or rain delays thanks to the stadium's retractable roof, and seats will be "among the closest to the playing field in all of baseball," according to a brochure on the new ballpark sent to current season ticketholders.
Of the new ballpark's 37,000 seats, 21,500 will be in the Lower Bowl, 4,500 on the higher-priced Legends Level and 10,000 on the upper deck or Vista Level.
An additional 1,000 tickets will be sold as standing room.
In its final agreement with Miami-Dade County and the City of Miami, the Marlins agreed to provide 10,000 free tickets a year — twice as many as agreed to in a preliminary deal — as well as 81,000 "affordable tickets" a year starting at $15 the year the ballpark opens, 2012.
And while potentially higher prices was a flashpoint in the controversy over $515 million construction of the ballpark, $347.5 million of which is coming from Miami-Dade, some credit it to little more than the nature of the business.
"They're moving into a facility that will give the fans a larger number of amenities besides watching the game," said Jim Riordan, director of Florida Atlantic University's MBA in sports management. "Somebody started [considering prices] a while back and the Marlins are keeping up with their competitors, and they have a right to do that."
But season ticketholders are most teams' "bread and butter," said Daniel Rosenberg, an associate professor of sports management at Barry University, and there's always a risk of angering that segment by raising prices.
It happened most recently in the new Yankees Stadium, which was charging season ticketholders up to $2,500 per seat per game when it opened last season for some seats.
Though the Yankees, who unlike the Marlins have little problem filling the stands, slashed those prices by nearly half, some fans are still protesting.
"Longtime wealthy ticket owners have rebelled, and that's why on TV you see embarrassingly lots of empty seats," Mr. Rosenberg said. "There's a risk in alienating people who can afford to do that."
But the increase in price could signify that the team is targeting with its season tickets a wealthier demographic or those who see value in a pricier seat.
"I suspect, and I know this firsthand, that they're very much targeting an upscale kind of fan," he added. "There may also be some of the thinking that you're getting something worth buying when you pay more for it and getting the exclusivity factor."
But "everything that governs ticket prices is the law of supply and demand, and so I think they'll be adjusted if they don't draw fans," he said.
Mr. Rosenberg and Mr. Riordan agreed that despite the cost of tickets for season or an individual game, the novelty of a new ballpark will help fill seats.
If, however, fans don't see higher value in the ballpark and the team itself, they said, support could wane quickly.
"Teams always use the reason [that] they need [more] money to keep on track with payroll obligations and keeping up with the market in terms of what players are getting paid," Mr. Riordan said. "If that is used a reason and a competitive team does not come to fruition and there's no signs the team is improving, then that could cause a serious backlash."