The Horrible Idea of ‘Premium Ticketing’

Darren Rovell is on assignment and unable to post today - but Sports Bizlives on. Today's special Sports Biz Guest Blogis from Tim Snyder who does freelance sports writing for The Wooster Daily Record.

Guest Blog: The Horrible Idea of “Premium Ticketing” by Tim Snyder.

I get it, selling tickets is tough. Tougher in a down economy, and worse yet if you’re a bad team in said down economy. dd an existence in a small or mid-market and a job in the ticket sales department can be akin to selling funeral plots.

The Cleveland Indians know this all too well.

I certainly don’t mean to imply that they’re the only team seeing a downturn in ticket sales, only that I’m more familiar with them being a lifelong Northeast Ohioan. I’m sure many teams are facing difficulties and downturns at the box office.

It’s been 61 years (and counting!) since the last World Series banner was hung in the Forest City and with a roster devoid of all-star talent, the smart bet seems to be on the trend continuing.

New ownership has arrived and payroll has been slashed. The days of 455 consecutive sellouts in the 90’s are figuratively and literally gone, as is the prospect of anything resembling a roster to compete for much more than third place in the AL Central.

Right next door to Progressive (formerly Jacobs) Field is Quicken Loans (formerly Gund) Arena, home of the two-time reigning MVP Lebron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Hopefully for a long time, but that’s another story.

What disposable income Clevelanders do have is spent on the Cavs, and let’s not forget the Cleveland Browns, home of one of the most loyal fan bases in the league. No matter the team’s lack of success since returning to the league in 1999, ticket sales will always be brisk.

Cleveland Indians fan holding up a banner prior to a game
Diamond Images | Getty Images
Cleveland Indians fan holding up a banner prior to a game

So the Indians are almost an afterthought, stuck behind the Cavs and Browns in terms of interest.

Cleveland is a town that, anymore, you could argue can’t support two professional franchises, let along three, and let’s not even talk about an NHL team.

What’s their answer?

Raising ticket prices, of course.

Want a seat in the lower Field Box level for a Monday night game in June against the Red Sox, that’ll be $70. That same seat two weeks later, on another Monday in June against the Toronto Blue Jays, well that’s only $60.

A $10 difference for the “privilege” of seeing the Red Sox in person. Why? Is the quality of baseball any different? Does my seat come with a cushion? Do they serve higher quality hot dogs for the Red Sox games? Is it the exchange rate for playing a Canadian team? No, no, no and of course not.

It’s greed, plain and simple, perpetuated on the premise that a bigger crowd will turn out for games against marquee teams.

True as that may be, it's just not good business.

Certainly one draw when the home team isn’t setting the world on fire, is to market, with subtlety, the visiting teams from larger markets. It’s something that every team with seats to fill has no doubt tried, and Cleveland teams have been able to perfect this art over the years.

Build a partial ticket package around the marquee teams, nothing wrong with that. Advertise and market it all you want, that’s your job. But don’t take advantage of your own fans in the process. Fans that you implore to come to the park, to bring their families and spend their hard-earned money.

I could stomach this if the proverbial door were to swing both ways, which of course it doesn’t.

Want the right to charge extra for weekend games in the summer (they do that too)? What about charging less for games on a cold Tuesday in April, or when it’s August 1st and the home team is 20 games out of first place?

Neither of this happens to my knowledge, unless you want to jump through some hoops at the local burger joint for a coupon. Cutting prices late in the season when a team is playing out the string would be an easy bone to throw to fans.

Come out to the park, bring the kids, and have a good time would be the message, and do it affordably. That would resonate if marketed correctly.

Stores cut prices on goods, hotels cut prices on rooms, why can’t seats be discounted when supply far outweighs demand?

When demand outweighs supply at Progressive Field, then step in and take your piece of the pie. Create a concept like Cavs owner Dan Gilbert did with FlashSeats.

They have, in essence, taken over the secondary market from the various ticket resellers and scalpers -- street side ticket brokers. The tickets are guaranteed, transferred electronically with cash exchanged virtually. All for the low, low price of an agreed upon price (usually above face value), a 24% buyers fee, plus $1.50 per ticket.

As a consumer, I don’t like it, but I tip my cap to a good business plan. Demand is high, supply is limited, and people want to see the Cavs. Gilbert saw an opportunity and created a service, a profitable and popular one I might add.

The Indians, unfortunately, do not have much to market, but that doesn’t mean that essentially overcharging the fans that DO show up is the right approach.

I would assume that a fan purchasing a discounted ticket, but paying full price for concessions and souvenirs, would be better than that fan not coming at all.

The local economy would benefit too, a parking lot has one more customer. The restaurant down the street from the park sells a few extra beers; the hotel nearby has one less available room.

In the end, the Indians will do what they feel is best for the bottom line, but so will fans. Fans have begun noticeably voting with their wallets and as long as the economy continues with the jitters, that trend will continue.

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Tim Snyder is a lifelong resident of Northeast Ohio who calls Orrville, Ohio his home. He blogs on his hometown high school sports team (link: and does freelance sports writing for The Wooster Daily Record. He can be reached at