Saturday, June 22, 2013

Wahoo Bucks: How the Cleveland Indians Are Ripping You Off

Everyone complains about low attendance, but did you know the Indians are preventing you from buying lower-cost tickets?

Like clockwork in Cleveland for the past decade, Indians attendance always becomes a hot topic in the spring and summer months. In 3 of the last 4 years, the topic has especially become amplified.

For the past three years, the Indians have gotten off to hot starts. And every spring the rhetoric from many members of the local media (and fans) has been something similar to this:

"The Indians are in first place and the Browns suck! Why isn't anyone going to the games?" (ignoring that it's April and there are still 120 games to go)

In 2013, the Indians "opened up their pocket books," signing Nick Swisher, Mark Reynolds, Michael Bourn and many other free agents. (Let's ignore the fact that Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore's contracts both came off the books and gave the Indians some money to spend. Let's give them the benefit of the doubt here.) The Indians also offered $4 beers (12 oz), $3 hot dogs, $2 soda refills and $1 dogs on Dollar Dog Night. Surely there is no reason to avoid Jacobs Field anymore, right? Right?

And again in 2013, attendance slumped. The rage and shaming from the local media has reached a fever pitch because once again the Indians were in first place in May and no one came to the ballpark. I, too, was shocked by the lack of attendance considering the Indians finally had some star power, were an exciting team, and seemed to have staying power too.

Then I went to buy a ticket and learned exactly why no one is going to The Jake:

This is the ticket chart for tonight's game vs the Minnesota Twins. The entire upper deck along the 3rd and 1st base lines along with right field are not for sale. These are the cheap seats. They have run anywhere from $8-15 in the past. They are NOT sold out. They are simply not for sale. The cheapest seats in the ballpark for tonight's game are $24.60, which is considerably more than that after taxes and fees.

This is not a one-time fluke. This ticket policy is a nightly occurrence for the Indians.

So, the Indians, after touting dollar dogs and $4 beers, have essentially jacked their ticket prices up 225% in one season. What once cost a family of four $32 (plus taxes, ticket fees, and parking) now costs almost $100. (over $100 after taxes, fees and parking. And let's not even get into those so-called "cheaper concessions").

Now, the Indians would probably respond by telling us that no one buys the $8 seats anyway. While true, lower cost seats were very popular among those of us who like to buy our tickets and meet our friends at the center field bar (and then spend $10/drink, thus more than making up the difference). Why would I pay $25+ for seats I'm likely not even going to sit in? Also, the cheap seats were popular among those who like to go to multiple games and support their team. With the new ticket policies, it is no longer economically feasible without spending four times more than previous seasons.

Now, it would be one thing if this was a regular occurrence around Major League Baseball. However, I researched the ticket prices and ticket availability among all MLB teams, especially the attendance challenged, and found startling revelations:

The Indians are the only team in MLB to have such a wacky ticket policy.

Of all the teams in MLB, here are some interesting statistics:

- The Indians and Marlins are the only teams that block off full sections from sale. However, the Marlins still offer $12 seats in a much newer and nicer ballpark compared to the 19 year old Jacobs Field.

- The Cubs and Red Sox are the only teams that have higher low-end ticket prices than the Indians. Wrigley Field and Fenway Park both are national landmarks in cities much larger than Cleveland, and Fenway has a much lower full capacity than Jacobs Field, creating a larger supply-demand curve for the Red Sox.

-Bleacher seats for Yankees games are $15-22, in the $1 billion open-in 2009 Yankee Stadium for a team with richer tradition and history of winning than the Indians, in a city with the highest cost of living in America. The cheapest bleacher seats for tonight's game at Jacobs Field against the Twins? $29.

-The Los Angeles Angels offer $7 upper deck seats. Los Angeles is another city with a high cost of living like New York.

-The St. Louis Cardinals (a midwest city similar to Cleveland) offer $5 seats on certain nights.

-Many other cities in MLB offer tickets in the $12-25 range and do not block off the sale of their lower-priced seats. 

So, the Indians can continue to hide behind the local media's shaming of their fanbase for not showing up to the ballpark, or fans can finally do their research, see the light, and see how the Indians are ripping them off once again. The bottom line is this:

-I'm a single male in my 20's with expendable income, no children and even I find this to be a ripoff. How does a family of four feel when they have to fork over four times the amount?
-I've been to several games this year and noticed the variety of concessions is lower this year than in the past. I can understand buying in bulk for lower prices, but aside from the hot dogs, beers and sodas, the prices aren't any lower, and many of my ballpark favorites are no longer offered. (BBQ pulled pork nachos being one of them)
-For the "Well the Browns suck and you still go see them!" crowd:
       -There are 8 Browns home games a year vs 81 for the Indians. I'm lucky if I go to 2 Browns games a year and would like to go to 10 Indians games a year, thus spending more on the Indians.
       -The Indians have lost 90+ games 3 of the last 4 years and have not had a winning season since 2007, same as the Browns. You're lying to yourself if you say they don't suck too.

In the end, it seems that the Dolans are still the Dolans. No wonder people don't come out to watch this team.


  1. thank you!!! i loved the $9 seats and went 2-3 times a week not this year :(

  2. A little misleading..

    Explains it better.