Weekend series. Yankees and Royals. Two of the best records in baseball.
Ticket prices? Not bad, all things considered.
That’s because all things are considered — including a forecast of rain through much of the series — in the high-tech marketplace that sets prices for sporting events, say experts on so-called dynamic pricing.
By and large, the price of Royals tickets sold by independent vendors is trending up because of the team’s success — a World Series appearance last year and a strong start this year.
One analysis shows that well-heeled ticket buyers this season are paying an average of $279 a game for the very best seat in the house, compared to $230 for the same seat in 2012. For lesser seats, ticket brokers are selling at prices 10 to 30 percent higher than last year.
And Royals fans don’t seem to mind, with attendance up more than 10,600 per game from a year ago.
Because brokered tickets are marketed on the Internet, techies with the know-how and software can track sales. And the Royals can choose to adjust their own prices.
Now, ticket prices for games and concerts are based on supply and demand in real time, a constant crunching of data from the online sale of different seats at different prices for different days.
Barry Kahn was surprised when recently checking the Royals’ website for Kauffman Stadium tickets Friday into Sunday.
“Sales aren’t what you might expect with the Yankees,” said Kahn, who supplies the Royals with ticket-pricing software. “The Cardinals next week are selling a lot better.”
In the Hy-Vee View section, the cheapest available seats for the St. Louis series beginning May 22 topped $50, as much as triple what you’d pay this weekend in the same section.
Kahn couldn’t say for certain, but he speculated that thunderstorms expected during the Yankees’ visit cut into demand.
“Things like the weather can have an effect” on dynamic pricing, said Kahn. Software developed by his company, Qcue, allows most teams in Major League Baseball to offer seats at prices competitive with brokers who make up what’s called the “secondary market” of tickets.
Secondary means everywhere tickets change hands beyond the old-fashioned way, at the box office.
That marketplace lives online. And smart techies, including those within Major League Baseball, know how to mine the Internet for all sorts of useful data. They can watch the value of a game ticket fluctuate like soybean prices or shares on Wall Street, providing a statistical measure of supply and demand as pure as it gets.
Since 2013, the average value of Royals tickets sold (or “resold”) in the secondary market has jumped from $28 to $41 for an outfield box seat, according to an analysis compiled for The Star by the online ticket vendor SeatGeek.
For Diamond Club seats, priced by the Royals this year at $73 per game for a season ticket, the secondary market value has climbed in two years from an average $85 to $106.
But those prices can veer crazily depending on the weather, pitching matchups and, most notably, day of the week. Saturday games at the K are running an average of $60 for tickets resold by online vendors, compared to just $28 for Monday and Wednesday games, said SeatGeek’s Connor Gregoire.
Gregoire said even fans of other teams are paying more for game tickets when the defending American League champion Royals visit. A three-game series next month at St. Louis’ Busch Stadium is commanding an average of $60 per ticket in the secondary market, up from about $32 when the Royals played there last year.
So here’s how prices on resold tickets are playing out for the coming week:
StubHub tickets still available Thursday for the series with New York start at $18. Come midweek, you can pay as little as $6 to see the Royals battle the visiting Cincinnati Reds. For the arriving Cardinals, minimum asking prices online jump as high as $62 for the May 23 contest.
Expect all those prices to drop if rain sticks around.
“People don’t want to sit through a game in wet or steamy weather” and may be less willing to pay top dollar, said Steve Shiffman, the Royals’ director of ticket sales and service.
In a dynamic-pricing world, rainouts can complicate things.
For each rainout, policies can differ. But suppose you paid $55 for a nose-bleed seat to a high-demand game that gets rescheduled to a date you can’t attend. The Royals will let you trade that for a seat of similar value in a less desirable game — maybe a few rows behind a dugout — if the seating’s available, club officials said.
Or the opposite could happen. If you had great seats to a rained-out game that few people were attending, you may have to settle on worse seats for a more desirable game.
The Royals and most other major league clubs began embracing dynamic pricing about three years ago. For fans who want to see a game, “it’s not a bad thing,” Shiffman said. “It’s a good thing when (ticket buyers) do it to their favor.”
Airlines wrote the playbook on dynamic pricing: Book a seat early, especially on low-demand flights, and pay a fraction of the price paid by a businessperson who books late. The opposite tends to happen with sporting events, said SeatGeek’s Gregoire. Ticket-broker prices often drop as the game nears.
Economists have mixed feelings about dynamic pricing. It’s “price discrimination,” they say, because savvy consumers don’t have to pay as much as lazy, less-informed ones.
Still, when all is added up, a Royals fan who doesn’t hold season tickets is apt to spend several bucks more to see a game than will season-ticket holders.
“Season tickets are different ball game altogether,” said Michael Davis, a sports economist at the Missouri University of Science and Technology at Rolla. “They’re always priced lower than what the single-game market demands.”
Confused? So long as the Royals keep winning, maybe the umpire’s take is best — play ball!