SBD/Issue 150/Franchises

Yankees Continue To Struggle Filling High-Priced Luxury Seats

Yankees' Legends Suite Section Has Been
Filled Only Once Since New Stadium's Opening
The most expensive seats in "America's costliest ballpark have become an embarrassment packing a financial sting" to the Yankees, as the Legends Suite section "has been filled only once in the six games" since the new Yankee Stadium opened last week, according to Ronald Blum of the AP. Seats in the section, which cost $500-2,500 for season tickets and $2,625 for individual games, "haven't been close to full ... on most days." During Tuesday night's game against the A's, "only 64 of the 146 seats at the top price level were occupied in the bottom of the second inning," and the "outermost Legends Suite sections, which each contain 90 seats, were entirely empty until two fans finally emerged to sit in them during the late innings." Legends Suite seats which originally sold for $500 also "were available for $225 early Wednesday" on StubHub, and tickets behind the visitors' dugout "could be had for $263, down from their $850 original price." But Yankees President Randy Levine yesterday said the team is "done talking about seats." Levine: "We're not talking about seats." MSNBC's Keith Olbermann, who owns Legends Suite season tickets, said, "The question becomes what happens as the economy rebounds. To what degree does the economy have to rebound before that type of spending resumes?" (AP, 4/23). The Yankees are continuing their sales push, placing a full-page ad in the April 20 edition of the N.Y. Observer promoting the team's party suites (THE DAILY).

FOR ALL TO SEE: In N.Y., Richard Sandomir writes in a new ballpark the Yankees "can't seem to fill, they need to import hundreds, even thousands, of people to sit in unsold seats or in those their owners don't want to claim." If televised images of empty seats at the ballpark are "important --- barely half the 43,342 announced as paid attendance in the Wednesday afternoon rain showed up -- then here's a tip for the Yankees: Follow your old business partners, the Nets, and play 'The Price is Right.'" Sandomir notes at a Mavericks-Nets game at Izod Center on December 19 held during a snowstorm, the arena PA announcer "implored fans in the arena's upper reaches to 'Come on down!'" and sit in lower-level seats. Meanwhile, it was "refreshing to hear" Yankees play-by-play announcer Michael Kay during YES Network's broadcast "announce the paid attendance Wednesday, hear him give a few reasons for why 43,342 looked nothing like 43,342, and to see the YES cameras pan to some empty expanses" (N.Y. TIMES, 4/23). ESPN's Brian Kenny noted from the main camera shot from behind the pitcher during a broadcast, “you’d think there’s nobody at the game.” Kenny: “Basically they now have a little moat around the field of empty seats. Those seats, by the way, can run you up to $2,600, and the waiters and ushers outnumber the fans back there." ESPN's Michael Wilbon added, "They're embarrassing themselves. They're just showing greed in every way imaginable." ESPN's Tony Kornheiser said, "This is simple economics. If you have an overwhelming supply and no demand you have to change something" ("SportsCenter," ESPN, 4/22).

Phillips Says Teams Must Raise Ticket Prices
To Be Able To Afford Higher Player Payrolls
DEFENDING THE SEATS: ESPN's Steve Phillips said, "The reality is this: those seats behind the screen, behind home plate -- they’re not for moms and dads and kids to go watch. Those are corporate seats. Those are for corporations that are going to spend the big bucks and buy them. They can write them off to take their clients to ball games. So in the end, that’s not affecting mom and dad taking the kids to the ball game anyway.” Phillips added, "This is a new era and a new wave of the game. You want new stadiums, you want high payrolls, you want the best teams. In the end, if you don’t like it, then have the players take less money, and they’re not going to take less money. So if you want to have the good players, you’re going to have to be able to find a way to afford them and that’s how you do it. You have to raise the prices” ("Baseball Tonight," ESPN, 4/22).

MORE IMPORTANT THINGS THAN BASEBALL: On Long Island, Neil Best wrote "some of the problem" with the empty seats is "unsold seats, of course." Best: "But here's another thing: Many of the empty seats were sold to someone, and many of those someones are off somewhere on a concourse or in a club -- eating, drinking, talking and perhaps keeping an eye on the game on TV" (NEWSDAY.com, 4/22).

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