SBJ/April 16-22, 2012/In-Depth

Will sellout streak continue throughout historic season?

For all the renovation work and memorable events at Fenway Park over the years, one thing perhaps stands out more than anything else to Boston Red Sox executives: the club’s active Fenway Park sellout streak of 712 games.

The Red Sox refer to the sellout streak as a “fan’s record” versus one set by the team.
Photo by: Getty Images
The streak, started in May 2003, now stands as by far the longest in MLB history and the third-longest ever in U.S. professional sports behind an active streak of 844 games and counting by the Class A minor league Dayton (Ohio) Dragons, and an 814-game mark set by the Portland Trail Blazers between 1977-95.

The Red Sox have had some comparative advantages relative to the Dragons and Trail Blazers, such as two World Series titles, a constant stream of star players, and nine visits every year from the ever-popular New York Yankees. But the Fenway Park streak has also been amassed with far higher seating capacities than in Dayton or Portland, with some of baseball’s highest ticket prices, and with some on-field ignominy such as last September’s epic collapse from the playoff race.
“The streak is something in which we absolutely take great pride, and with the anniversary in particular this year, this is a hugely important season for us,” said Sam Kennedy, Red Sox chief operating officer.

To that end, the club has consistently referred to the mark as a “fan’s record” as opposed to one held or set by the team.

But with two straight non-playoff years and a historically large run of poor weather in 2011, increasing speculation has centered on when the epic Red Sox streak will end. Furthermore, media speculation has centered on whether the club is papering the house, or whether it is artificially keeping the streak alive by keeping ticket prices below market value and shifting a fair amount of the sales risk to the secondary market.

Club executives deny the first charge, while acknowledging they have held the line on ticket pricing to maintain affordability, with 2012 pricing staying flat compared with last year.

“The streak will definitely end,” Kennedy said. “We know this. It’s a question of when. But we cannot paper the house or resort to a bunch of gimmicks. Here, it’s about baseball. And the idea is to keep that bond with the fans tight as long as we can.”

SOLD OUT
Longest sellout streaks by number of games in each major league:
League Games Franchise Started
NBA 814 Portland Trail Blazers 1977-95
MLB 712 Boston Red Sox 2003-current
NHL 487 Colorado Avalanche 1995-2006
NFL 358 Washington Redskins 1966-current
Note: Figure for the Red Sox does not include postseason play, while figures for the other leagues do reflect playoff games. Through April 3
Source: SportsBusiness Journal research
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