Overpriced tickets, empty seats, and clueless management

The fact that sports ticket prices are completely out of hand is far from a new revelation, and my favorite club in any sport, the New York Yankees, falls among the worst offenders, possibly even occupying the top spot.

Go team go!

Empty seats, especially in the premium sections, have become the norm, no matter how big the game, or how nice the weather. And as clueless as management at some of these teams can be, they are trying to remedy the problem. But are they trying hard enough?

I became a Yankees season-ticket holder (half-season through 2008, full season for 2009 and 2010) in 1997, and I gave my seats up after the 2010 season (click the link for the long list of reasons why). The Yankees have managed to treat me better as a former ticket holder than when I actually had the account active.

I have received several calls over the past few months from the Yankees ticket office, gauging my interest in rejoining the fold for the 2013 season. I am actually surprised that the club is putting that much effort into cases like mine. When I go to Dunkin’ Donuts, I usually drop the coins I receive as change into the tip jar. The $4,000 or so that my season tickets cost means less to the Yankees than those coins mean to me.

I don’t even bother answering anymore because, in all fairness to the Yankees, I am in no position to commit to tickets of any sort, and many of the factors have nothing to do with the team or its pricing. We are moving, which would make attending weeknight games virtually impossible, and our family expanded, which completely changes the priorities of our budget.

But the few times I did make last-ditch attempts to keep some kind of ticket plan, the seats they were willing to offer me at a reasonable price were pure crap. I may have tried to plead my case with Mrs. 9 if I could have gotten something in the first few rows of the 400 level, in the infield, but when I was offered high rows in the outfield, my response was, “Dude, I have a 50-inch TV. Why would I sit all the way up there?”

And it’s not just the Yankees: A good friend Is part of a group that splits premium (and I do mean premium) Mets tickets, and the Mets actually lowered their prices significantly. Still, the skeptic in me wonders: If the Mets had been a playoff team in any of the three seasons since moving to Citi Field, would they have extended that offer? My gut says no.

Another good friend stopped by tables that the New York Giants and New York Jets set up at an event, and he received the big-time hard sell from both teams. When they asked,” What’s it going to take to get you in these seats?” sounding like desperate used-car salesmen, his response was, “Drop the PSL.” Naturally, they refused.

For years, the only way to get Giants season tickets was to put your name on a waiting list and wait several years (my name was on one prior to the new stadium opening, and I was told to expect a 15- to 20-year wait). I find it almost laughable that I could pick up the phone today and become a season ticket holder if I wanted to, but that would require an investment beyond my means, especially when I don’t root for the team.

For those not in the know, PSL stands for “personal seat license,” which is the biggest scam in the sports ticketing industry. A PSL basically forces fans to pay a large lump sum of money, simply for the right to shell out more money for the actual tickets.

Some PSLs offer owners the right to purchase their seats for other events (concerts, other sports), but the Giants and Jets can’t even do that. When Bruce Springsteen plays MetLife Stadium, who gets the seat: The Giants fan, or the Jets fan? Those teams’ PSL holders receive perks, such as early access to ticket sales, but is that enough?

One of the most irritating things about PSLs is that teams pitch them to fans as investment opportunities, touting how much the fans can profit if they resell the PSLs. I realize running a sports team is running a business, but being a sports fan is an entirely different story. If someone is enough of a fan of the team to consider forking over several thousand dollars per seat for PSLs, selling those rights is the furthest thing from their minds.

Back on topic: It’s obvious that teams are recognizing the fact that the prices they are trying to charge in an economy that is still scuffling are completely out of hand, leading to the large pockets of empty seats in very visible locations (field level behind home plate for baseball, field level between the 40-yard-lines for football), but are they doing enough about it? My experience Saturday, which prompted me to write this blog post, suggests otherwise.

$275? Seriously?

A friend from college was nice enough to give me two tickets to Saturday afternoon’s Yankees game against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and we took 0.9 to his first-ever Yankees game. They were fun seats, especially since I usually sit upstairs: section 117a (field level, behind the Yankees dugout), row 30.

However, when I looked at the ticket price, my jaw dropped. The face value of the tickets was $275 apiece. I am not by any means trying to sound ungrateful for the tickets, and I was happy to learn that my friend received them as a gift, so he didn’t shell out that ungodly sum of money for them, but seriously?

First of all, they were technically field level seats, but they were nowhere near the field. As I said, they were in row 30, but the Legends Suite seats are in front of the field level seats, so they were really about 40 rows up.

Second, they were in the back row, and the condiments station was directly behind us. I joked about getting something spilled on me when we first got there, and somebody with an $11.50 cup of Miller Lite soon obliged.

Third, the section to our right had a handicapped seating area in place of rows 26-30. I am all for ballparks having as much handicapped access and seating as possible, and I applaud the existence of this seating area, and all of the others in the ballpark. However, because of the location of this particular handicapped seating area, I could not see anything hit down the right field line.

Charging $275 for those tickets is beyond criminal. I would have been irate if I actually paid that silly price to sit there. And despite the beautiful weather and excellent opponent, there were plenty of empty seats around us.

Also, I have no way to prove this, but if you look at StubHub, there are usually thousands of tickets available for every game. In the case of Saturday’s game, there were more than 2,400 available on the morning of the game. Yet, despite the fact that StubHub users can assign any price they wish to their tickets, there are often large groups of listings at the exact same price, all for seats in sections like 117a, and all from a handful of user names. So, either a few people are rich enough to own several-hundred field level season tickets apiece, or the Yankees are flooding the secondary market with tickets they can’t sell. You decide. I already have.

Sports teams have a choice: Either take a serious look at your pricing policies, or continue to see more and more empty seats. But despite recent economic struggles, the teams’ management remains far too arrogant, for the most part, to admit that the current structure is out of hand. It will be interesting to see if this ever changes.

Citi Field: What a weird ballpark (in a good way)

There cannot possibly be a more no-lose situation for a ballpark than replacing Shea Stadium. No matter what the new facility is like, it’s guaranteed to be an improvement. But Citi Field, the new home of the New York Mets, is a delightfully quirky ballpark, and I liked it a great deal.

Citi Field

Citi Field

Did I like it as much as the new Yankee Stadium? No, but I’m biased. Plus, the two ballparks were built with different missions. Yankee Stadium was built with the intention of keeping a lot of the features of the pre-1976 and post-1976 Yankee Stadium, while Citi Field was meant to be an entirely new concept. Citi Field definitely fulfilled that expectation.

I loved the fact that it’s not a uniform playing field. It’s definitely a pitcher-friendly ballpark, but the dimensions are all over the place. Right field is especially quirky, with an area called the Pepsi Porch that overhangs the playing field, similar to the upper deck in Tiger Stadium, and a right-field wall that juts out sharply then bends back in.

Citi Field

Citi Field

The bullpens were also quite unique: The visitors’ bullpen is behind the Mets’ bullpen, under the seats, so you can’t really see it. It took me a while to locate.

The seating areas have a lot of odd little nooks and crannies and small sections, with some seats that seem like fantastic places to watch a game and a few seats that are God-awful. There are also a great number of standing-room areas that provide great views of the field.

When I first entered the ballpark, the upper deck seemed excessively high and far away from the field, but our seats were in the seventh row of the upper deck, between home place and third base, and they were fine. The upper deck appears far worse than it actually is.

There’s an area behind the center-field scoreboard that features several food options, a beer stand with an unbelievable selection and activities for kids, such as a batting cage and a miniature Citi Field Wiffle Ball field. And the back of the center-field scoreboard has a video monitor, so you don’t miss any of the action.

Citi Field

Citi Field

There’s a similar area in the upper deck behind home plate, just for food and a gift shop, but there’s no video monitor. I have a feeling the Mets will add one eventually.

One thing that puzzled my friend and I: There are a ton of seats in fair territory in left field. They’re not necessarily bad seats, but they’re still in fair territory. In fact, due to a handful of club areas and suites, there really aren’t that many seats in the infield, which is strange for a new ballpark.

Citi Field will definitely be confusing the first few times around — for both fans and opposing players — but it’s a truly fun place to enjoy a baseball game.

Unemployment Nine: Taking advantage of my freedom

My frustrations with being unemployed have been pretty well chronicled by now. But with the approach of warm weather and baseball season, while my job hunt may still suck, things are taking a turn for the better in terms of fun activities to keep myself busy.

Riu Palace Las Americas, Cancun

Riu Palace Las Americas, Cancun

Naturally, I will stay vigilant on my search for a new job. And as much fun as the stuff I’m about to discuss will be, I’d rather be employed. But it’s time to start taking advantage of the kind of time off I likely won’t have again until after I retire.

Tomorrow, I will attend the St. Patrick’s Day Parade for the first time in years. Thanks to a good friend, I’ll be in one of the viewing stands, which I’ve never done.

Next Thursday, my girlfriend and I leave for a long weekend in Cancun, at the Riu Palace Las Americas. I can already taste the tropical drinks at poolside.

Then, after arriving back in the States, hopefully with a tan, it’s time for baseball.

First, the Yankees will hold a workout at the new Yankee Stadium, open to full-season-ticket holders, April 2. Why not? I might as well make my first trip to the new ballpark.

Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium

The following night, I have tickets for the Cubs-Yankees exhibition game.

Then, if I can get a cheap ticket, Saturday afternoon, April 4, I may try to go to the Red Sox-Mets exhibition game at the new ballpark in Queens, Citi Field. I really don’t care where I sit, so I’ll take any ticket. I just want to see another new stadium.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

Oriole Park at Camden Yards

The Yankees open the regular season Monday, April 6 in Baltimore, and I was able to get face-value tickets via Ticketmaster, so I’m going to a road Opening Day for the first time ever. The game time is perfect: 4:05 p.m., which means I can leave at a reasonable hour and give myself plenty of time to enjoy Inner Harbor food (crab cakes!) and microbrews (Wharf Rat Porter) before gametime, and still get home at a reasonable hour.

Opening Day at the new Yankee Stadium is Thursday, April 16, and the Yankees and Indians also have a day game scheduled the following day.

Barring lightning striking during this dull job search, I hope to attend all of those. I’d never be able to do all of this stuff if I were employed.

So I guess there is some good to being out of work, after all. But in a perfect world, I’d start a new job Monday, April 20.

There used to be a ballpark

Anyone who knows me knows I absolutely hate the New York Mets and rarely resist an opportunity to poke fun at them.

Photo by Mike Harrigan

Photo by Mike Harrigan

I also hated Shea Stadium, and that had nothing to do with the Mets. I hate the Red Sox far more than the Mets, but I love Fenway Park. I just found Shea to be an ugly eyesore and, unless you were fortunate enough to acquire field-level tickets, a really poor place to watch a ballgame.

So why is it that instead of cackling about these pictures and injecting my usual anti-Mets venom — they should have filled the stadium with Mets fans first, then knocked it down — I actually find them to be kind of sad?

Photo by Mike Harrigan

Photo by Mike Harrigan

I had no attachment whatsoever to Shea, but there’s something very stark and haunting about the shell of a former ballpark. Instead of laughing at the remains of Shea, like I thought I would, I found these pictures to be haunting and sad.

I don’t even want to venture a guess as to how bad it will affect me when they start tearing down the old Yankee Stadium, as my attachment to that building has been chronicled in these pages quite frequently.

I never thought I’d say this, but, as I tip my Yankees hat, R.I.P, Shea Stadium.

The best seat in Shea Stadium

Although I’m a Yankees fan, I’ve taken advantage of the fact that there’s a second Major League (and I use that term loosely) team in the area and gone to quite a few Mets games in my lifetime. And now, finally, in the last year of the existence of Shea Stadium, I found the best seat in the house.

The best seat in Shea StadiumMy friend Jesse is pictured enjoying the seat, with all of its perks. It’s 330 feet from home plate, six sections from the nearest men’s room, eight sections from the nearest beer stand and, best of all, you don’t have to watch the Mets!

I mean, what more could you ask for in a seat at Shea? Location, location, location!

Seriously, what in God’s name were they thinking when they put a seat there? Even when the Jets used to play at Shea, it’s not like they take the foul poles down when baseball season ends.

I forgJesse enjoying New  York Mets baseballot just how ugly Shea Stadium really is, and I’m not just saying that because I hate the Mets. Shea has two distinct advantages over Yankee Stadium. The field level at Shea is laid out so much better and is much more comfortable and friendly, with far better angles. And the food at Shea is edible — good, even — which has never been the case at Yankee Stadium. For a place many consider to be the temple of baseball, it’s sad that prisoners probably eat better than Yankee fans, and for a lot less money.

But field level aside, Shea is just an ugly, ugly building, inside and out. I know some Mets fans will miss it simply for the fact that it’s where they grew up, but the new ballpark, Citi Field, looks like it will be absolutely gorgeous.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a foul pole to sit behind.