Sticker Shock

Gwinnett Braves tickets are not going to be cheap.

It’ll cost a lot more to watch the Atlanta Braves’ top minor-league team play in Gwinnett County next season than in Richmond this year.

In fact, the Gwinnett Braves will have some of the priciest tickets in minor-league baseball, based on information sent this week to prospective season-ticket buyers.

While fans in Richmond paid $432 for season tickets in the infield box seats this year, comparable season tickets will cost $950 when the team moves to Gwinnett next year — and even more in the first few rows behind home plate ($2,000 to $2,500) or behind the Braves’ dugout ($1,100).

The cheapest season tickets in Gwinnett will cost more than the priciest in Richmond. In Richmond, the price range is $216 to $432. In Gwinnett, the range will be $500 to $2,500.

The Braves said single-game ticket prices for Gwinnett’s inaugural season will be finalized and announced later. The team said those tickets, on a per-game basis, will be in the range of 12 percent to 16 percent higher than season-ticket prices.

In one sense, I am not surprised. Ballpark prices have been rising for year because fans value ballpark amenities and are willing to pay for them. This is consistent trend in sports.

Toby Wyman, the Gwinnett Braves’ assistant general manager for business operations, said the higher prices are justified because of the lack of fan amenities at the Richmond stadium.

“Obviously, Gwinnett is a very different market from Richmond,” Wyman said, “and this is going to be the newest and state-of-the-art ballpark in Class AAA [baseball].” He said the stadium will have better sightlines, more comfortable seats and more entertainment and dining options than in Richmond and many minor-league parks.

Still, I wonder if this is the right move politically. Gwinnett County taxpayers just coughed up a hefty subsidy for Liberty Media shareholders, and fan discontent early on could sour fan interest. Ticket prices in Gwinnett appear to be higher than in other Triple-A cities.

A survey of the 14 current International League teams found none with a season ticket as expensive as Gwinnett’s “Home Plate Club” seats, which — for $2,500 per season in the front row and $2,000 in the next three rows — will include parking, a private stadium entrance, access to a private lounge area and other amenities. Wyman said the section of about 260 seats will be “very unique” for the minor leagues.

If you exclude those premium seats, one of the 14 International League teams has season-ticket prices roughly in the same ballpark as Gwinnett’s: the Lehigh Valley (Pa.) IronPigs, the Philadelphia Phillies’ top affiliate. IronPigs season tickets range from $648 to $1,008. The other teams, though, are considerably lower.

In the other Class AAA league, the 16-team Pacific Coast League, no team lists season-ticket prices as high as for Gwinnett’s Home Plate Club seats. Aside from those seats, four PCL teams have prices that top Gwinnett’s. (Prices were not available for two teams.)

Ultimately, we have to remember that this is a private operation. The Braves have every incentive to set the price to maximize revenue. The Braves obviously feel the higher prices are justified. Management states that they were influenced by the pricing of other sporting events in Gwinnett.

One sad note for the county is that the deal with the Braves transfers a flat $1 per ticket to the county. By charging high prices, the team may earn higher revenue by restricting the number of tickets sold. Thus, the county may receive less revenue than anticipated as a result of lower attendance. At least, the county is guaranteed a minimum of $400,000 a season from tickets. Furthermore, because the county doesn’t get a cut of the ticket revenue, the county loses out on a cut of what might be a smart business move.

3 Responses “Sticker Shock”

  1. Kyle S says:

    I wonder about whether the GBraves would have priced differently under a different arrangement with the county. At first, my instinct was to agree, because instead of P-1, they are keeping a fraction times P. However, since the marginal cost of selling another ticket is zero (more or less – there are exceptions, like when oakland closed its upper deck, but this assumption is mostly true for the GBraves), the team will maximize revenue under either arrangement by selling every ticket. The reason this is true is that the team has the ability to price-discriminate quite easily – by setting better seats at higher prices and vice versa. I still think Gwinnett County could have gotten a better deal than $1 per ticket, but such a deal may not necessarily have resulted in lower-cost tickets.

  2. Millsy says:

    You’re right, it may not necessarily lower ticket costs. However, if the Braves reached the point in their ticketing scheme where a large number of people were not willing to pay $1 or more for a seat (this is, of course, assuming the demand for the team is not as high as one would hope), the Braves would lose money for giving away tickets for less than $1, even with a $0 cost of making the sale. This essentially puts a cost of $1 to sell each ticket. This may sound silly to mention, as printed ticket value will not ever be below $1; however, teams like the Detroit Pistons give tickets away in order to keep their ‘sellout’ streaks going (I assume there is value to selling advertisements in this). I would imagine that if the county were in charge of the operation, they would use a tactic such as giving away the tickets in order to receive THEIR maximum revenue per game, which may not be the case with the Braves controlling this operation. Of course, for the Braves to give up this control to the county with no incentive for the county to maximize Braves revenue would be silly. A better deal may not have decreased ticket prices, but it would have provided the county with a little more out of their investemnt under the given conditions. I tend to agree that the county got a crappy deal on this one.

  3. Millsy says:

    To add to the last post, a couple things not mentioned. The $400,000 is a fixed cost each year for the Braves. Therefore, they do have an incentive to give tickets away if they can’t sell $400,000 (in game concessions or whatever other money they take). However, let’s assume for some miraculous reason that the Braves figure out that their profit maximization is at 400,000 seats sold (of course, not a sellout on a season). The county gets the minimum in the agreement, while the Braves prosper. Lowballing the numbers at 5,000 seats and 100 games a season, right there is $100,000 a year the county is missing out on. There is no incentive for the Braves to give away those 100,000 tickets beyond where their marginal cost ($1 tickets) equals their marginal revenue (ticket price at $1), not accounting for in game concessions and other sales.