In the wake of a drastic restructuring and reduction of ticket prices and a pretty big parking cut, White Sox marketing head Brooks Boyer spent a lot of time on the phone explaining the methodology and mindset in their renewed efforts to bring fans to U.S. Cellular Field.
From Dan Hayes' account, it started at midseason, when the Sox realized that their usual pattern of drawing interest in June wasn't going to come close to meeting projections, even with the Sox holding an AL Central lead for the majority of the summer:
"Obviously you don’t want to have decreases for the number of years that we have had and we’re making what hopefully are significant strides for fans to reverse that trend. But it wasn’t ‘Oh no.’ We could tell in the middle of the year that we had to start being very aggressive to be able to move forward."
That led to the survey that many of you filled out in the second half of the season. It was part of a study conducted by Sports Business Journal columnist Rich Luker, and here's the most striking finding:
"Thirty percent of respondents said they went to less games in 2012 than 2011, while 20 percent said they went to more," Luker said in a phone conversation. "But the people who said they went to significantly less games was 3-1 against those who went to more games in 2012."
And complaints about the price of parking caught Boyer's attention, too:
Based on about 400 pages of comments from fans who responded to a survey, the biggest concerns involved the price of parking.
"In my nine years (with the Sox), I never saw a groundswell of complaints about the parking prices (like these)," Boyer said. "It reached a tipping point."
The fans listed numerous obstacles that are not in the Sox's control, and so Boyer doesn't expect ticket and parking price slashes to cure all that ails the gate:
"There's no silver bullet," said Boyer of the White Sox attendance, which has declined for six straight years since setting the franchise record of 2,957,414 in 2006. "It's not pricing that is going to take us from where we are to 2.5 million and beyond."
Boyer said that time commitment is the No. 1 factor in influencing fans going to games, followed by price of tickets, price of parking and what is spent at the ballpark. The White Sox can't control how long it takes for fans to get to games, nor can they control the length of a game.
The part about the commute might bring to mind the elimination of the Red Line due to construction next season, but it might not loom that large. The Sox said around 15 percent of fans use the Red Line to get to games, and that seems like it can be overcome by the nearby Green Line, Metra and reduction in parking prices.
Boyer called the pricing revamp "Step One" of a plan to fire up the fan base, and said the Sox are looking at "everything, from the broadcasts to the in-game entertainment." The part about the broadcasts piques my interest.
Another line that stands out is from this video of Boyer's comments while in the CSN Chicago office. He mentions that "fans make a difference for the players," which brings to mind Kevin Youkilis' expressed surprise about the Sox playing "second fiddle" to the Cubs.
And according to Mark Liptak at White Sox Interactive, Boyer also told CSN Chicago that price reductions will have no impact on payroll -- or at least no negative impact. He hopes the increased support will increase the front office's financial flexibility. That's where the new money from Major League Baseball's lucrative tv deal comes in, I'm guessing.
For the record
Also over at WSI, Harry Potter (probably not that one) posted the email he received from the sales department:
Our ticket sales staff is beginning to contact season ticket holders this week, so we wanted to get this basic information to you first.
Overall, we are taking aggressive steps to decrease the cost of attending a White Sox baseball game in 2013. Two of those steps are lowering ticket prices and creating affordable seating options that will be available to fans in both the lower and upper levels on a daily basis.
Below are some of the more notable items about ticket pricing for this upcoming season.
· Near the end of the 2012 season, the White Sox commissioned a comprehensive research project by Rich Luker, the creator of The ESPN Sports Poll, author of "Simple Community," and the Up Next trend columnist for Sports Business Journal, who helped examine White Sox fan sentiments on a variety of issues, including ticket prices, and other factors affecting the decision to attend White Sox games.
· The club took the results of the research, feedback on dynamic ticket prices -- which has been utilized by the White Sox since 2010 -- as well secondary market prices (from sites such as Stub Hub) and created a new ticket pricing model that provides fans more value opportunities to attend games.
· More than 87% of all full season tickets for the 2013 season are either dropping in price or staying the same; with more than 54% of the full season tickets dropping an average of 26%.
· The biggest drop in season ticket prices for 2013 are in the Bleacher and Outfield Reserved sections, which are dropping 32 and 30 percent, respectively (for full season tickets). For example, for the 2013 season four full season Bleacher tickets will cost $2,800 less than in 2012.
· Furthermore, full season tickets will be available for as low as $810/per seat and split season plans for as low as $297/per seat (both Upper Reserved).
· On split season tickets, all 27-game plans are decreasing in price, an average of over 25%.
· On a daily basis, corner seats in the lower deck will be available for $20 per game and upper deck corner seats will be available for $7, all season long (excluding only Opening Day and the two Cubs games in May) - which accounts for nearly 5,000 seats per game.
· The cost of parking also is being dropped - to $20 (down from $25 and $23).
· The season ticket holders who will receive decreases in their tickets will have that reflected in their invoices for 2013, which they will receive the coming weeks. The small number of fans who will see a ticket price increase - due to the high demand of their current locations- are being personally contacted by the White Sox.
· There will be additional announcements regarding pricing for seven and 14-game ticket plans, and individual tickets later this offseason.