The sticker shock that accompanied the postseason pricing information sent earlier this month by the Royals to their season-ticketholders also jolted professional ticket brokers.
“I’ve just never seen anything to this extreme,” one national broker said. “Normally, it’s expensive, and there’s a little bit of backlash from fans who don’t understand that, hey, it is a big deal. I’ve just never seen it like this.”
Information obtained by The Kansas City Star regarding postseason prices set by several clubs shows the Royals’ markup percentage to be among the highest, if not the highest, in baseball for season-ticketholders.
Diamond Box seats located behind the dugout on the lower level normally sell for $39 in the regular season. That price jumps to $155 for a wild-card game or the divisional series, $220 for the championship series and $275 for the World Series.
That represents increases of 297.4 percent, 464.1 percent and 605.1 percent. Seem high? Several professionals in the field say they are among the sharpest increases they’ve ever seen for any event.
In contrast, consider this weekend’s opponent, the Texas Rangers, who are also the American League club located closest to Kansas City. The Rangers typically charge $50 for a seat behind the dugout.
Their postseason markup is to $65 for a wild-card game and the divisional series, $125 for the championship series and $250 for the World Series. Brokers say those markups are average to slightly below average.
This might all be a relatively moot point, of course.
The Royals remain a long shot to reach the postseason. They were three games behind Texas, with 10 games left, for the AL’s final wild-card berth before Friday’s game against the Rangers at Kauffman Stadium.
Even so, the Royals, if they fail to reach the postseason, will apply money obtained from advance sales toward 2014 season tickets unless fans specifically request a refund.
Such a procedure is normal for all clubs.
All prices cited here are for season-ticketholders seeking to purchase their seats for postseason games. Those same seats often sell for higher prices when sold on a single-game basis in the regular season and postseason.
That’s part of the rub.
“When playoff tickets come out,” one broker said, “that’s a big benefit for season-ticketholders. You get playoff tickets normally at a reasonable price.
“Where you normally see capitalism is in areas where you don’t have a lot of season-ticketholders, areas where you see fair-weather fans or fans from out of town. Your upper deck. Your outfield seats.
“Charge what you can get for those tickets. Those guys aren’t going to the games during the week in April and May. You need to maximize your revenues from those people.”
The Royals are doing that, too. An Outfield Box seat that normally sells for $23 in the regular season will jump to $95 for the wild-card and divisional series, $110 for the LCS and $175 for the World Series.
Club officials chose to respond to questions regarding their postseason pricing by issuing a statement. It read in part:
“The postseason ticket pricing is determined from a study of both the primary and secondary market by each individual club, with Major League Baseball having final approval on the pricing structure.
“Factors include recent postseason participation by the club and last year’s All-Star events, which supplies the club with enough data to determine fair market pricing.
“Analysis of just one particular seating section for a portion of the entire postseason schedule can lead to false conclusions as some teams will price heavier in the early rounds and less in later rounds, which is the direction we chose to follow.”
The Royals contend their markup percentage is misleading because their regular-season prices are among the lowest in baseball. They also point to capacity at Kauffman Stadium (37,903) as a major factor.
“Kauffman Stadium has the fifth-lowest capacity of the 17 clubs who submitted pricing,” their statement said. “Essentially, the higher-capacity ballparks have lower average prices due to the larger volume of less-expensive tickets farther from the field.”
Something to keep in mind: A club doesn’t keep all of the money generated by postseason ticket sales. A sizable portion of the revenue from ticket sales funds the players’ share for participating in the postseason.
For all that, the Pittsburgh Pirates offer a stark contrast.
The Pirates are a small-market club who endured 20 consecutive losing seasons prior to this year and play in a similar-sized stadium (PNC Park lists capacity as 38,362), but they have more modest hikes for early rounds.
An upper infield seat behind the dugouts typically sells for $27 in the regular season. It will cost $43 for the divisional series, $68 for the league championship series before jumping to $225 for the World Series.
That jump for the World Series represents a 733.3 percent increase over the regular-season price, which is higher than the Royals’ markup percentage from the regular season to the World Series.
Major League Baseball confirmed that it approved the Royals’ pricing — as it did for all 17 clubs permitted to collect money for possible participation in postseason play.
“The Royals sent us a pricing structure,” said Pat Courtney, MLB’s senior vice president for public relations, “and we signed off on it.”
Using seats behind the dugouts is the best basis for comparison on pricing structures because stadium layouts vary widely from club to club. Behind the dugout is, after all, behind the dugout in any ballpark.
Even so, it isn’t a perfect apples-to-apples comparison. Some clubs, including the Pirates, sub-divide those seats into lower and upper areas behind the dugout.
A further complication in comparisons: Some clubs, including St. Louis, plan to use dynamic pricing, which enables the market to set the price — and those prices can jump sharply if demand increases.
Royals officials, privately, say brokers are upset because the club’s pricing approach maximizes the club’s profit potential primarily at the expense of those brokers.
Those same officials say their pricing generated few complaints from fans, and that renewals on season tickets are brisk, although they chose not to supply any figures.