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Volume 20 No. 46


Giants season-ticket holders will pay the same as they did in last year’s Super Bowl season.
More than two-thirds of NFL teams are lowering or keeping their season-ticket prices flat for 2012, underscoring the moves clubs are taking to ensure their stadiums are filled.

Only 16 of the NFL’s 256 regular-season games last year were not designated by the league as sold out, the lowest such total since 2008, but improving the in-game experience is a top agenda item for the NFL at this week’s annual meeting. It’s become a frequent theme for the league in recent years as teams struggle to woo fans away from deluxe in-home entertainment systems.

Even teams like the Super Bowl-winning New York Giants are keeping prices flat.

“We recognize the commitment our [personal seat license] holders have made to our organization, and we decided against a price increase for this season,” said Giants co-owner John Mara. Every Giants season-ticket holder also had to buy a PSL to get a seat in MetLife Stadium.

While some teams like the Giants, Dallas Cowboys and New York Jets have large PSL contingents as a motivation for keeping prices flat, other clubs are responding to a tougher marketplace. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers, for example, have cut ticket prices now three years in a row. Tampa Bay joins six other teams with average-price reductions for 2012.

Fifteen teams, nearly half the league, are keeping their 2011 prices intact. Of the 10 teams that are raising prices on average, the hike in most cases is minimal and reflects an increase in a small area of seats while the rest of the stadium pricing remains flat. Such is the case with Denver, Seattle and New England.

“It is accelerating,” said one team ticket executive of the number of teams holding the line on ticket prices. Prior to 2010, annual increases were routine, another source said. Now, increases are the minority. “It was the norm: ticket prices going up 7 percent annually,” said this team ticket source, who requested anonymity because he did not want to speak for his organization.

Only two teams appear to be increasing prices by at least that much this year: Detroit (7.9 percent) and Houston (8.5 percent).

The trend of flattening ticket prices is serving in part to restrain league revenue growth for 2012, so much so that player compensation as calculated for the coming season was low enough to trigger a floor provision in the collective-bargaining agreement. With that provision, the players are getting $142.4 million per team this year. Without it, their haul would have been in the $135 million to $140 million range. The salary floor provision expires after next season.

The Washington Wizards have rolled out a season-ticket renewal campaign laden with incentives as the team looks to boost business during a year of futility on the court.

The team has created a DC 12 Club marketing platform that gives new and renewing full-season-ticket buyers access to some 30 events hosted by the team outside of Wizards games, all included in the price of the ticket. The “12” in the program’s label is a nod to participants having access to events all 12 months of the year.

It’s an offering similar to what the Charlotte Bobcats unveiled last month, with their Cats 365 plan that provides season-ticket buyers a series of events outside of the games.

“We are creating more value,” said Jim Van Stone, senior vice president of ticket sales and services for Monumental Sports & Entertainment, the Ted Leonsis-owned organization that operates the Wizards, the NHL Capitals and the WNBA Mystics. “We are looking at this as a way for fans to be part of a membership and we are trying to create deeper relationships.”

The DC 12 Club is offered at no cost to season-ticket buyers, who can pick and choose from a slate of offerings ranging from open gym at the team’s practice facility to movie nights in the Verizon Center. Another incentive is priority to purchase seats to the men’s and women’s Olympic basketball exhibitions against Brazil to be held at the Verizon Center on July 16, the last games the Olympic squads will play in the United States before the London Games begin.

In addition, the Wizards are holding flat season-ticket prices for renewing customers as part of the team’s price-guarantee pledge made last year. Next year’s season-ticket prices range between $9.50 and $1,500 per game. The Wizards also are giving season-ticket buyers authentic player warm-up jackets and, like other NBA teams, they are implementing a 12-month payment plan for season-ticket buyers.

It is a menu of incentives team officials hope will boost the season-ticket base, which stands in excess of 7,000. Last year, the Wizards sold 2,500 new full-season-ticket plans, a number Van Stone would like to duplicate despite the team’s struggles on the court.

“We will be at 80 percent plus,” Van Stone said of the team’s expected renewal rate. “We have tried to add as much value as we can in terms of [season-ticket-holder] investment.”

As of last Thursday, the Wizards had an 11-34 record on the court, third-worst in the 30-team league. At the gate, the team ranked 17th leaguewide, with an average attendance of 16,783 fans a game, up 1.3 percent to date from last year.