The Red Sox, who already have the most expensive tickets in baseball, are raising prices again, this time by 9 percent, in an effort to keep up with a familiar target: the Yankees.
A little more than two weeks after the Red Sox won their second World Series in four seasons, the team decided it needed more revenue to fund everything from Fenway Park improvements to free agents to draftees. And the Sox are determined to pass much of the expense on to the fans, some of whom might still be unpacking their bags from Cleveland and Colorado.
"It's pretty disgusting, but I'm not surprised," said Jon Freedman, who has had a pair of season tickets, loge box seats along third base, since 1987. "But you know, if I don't buy them, there are at least 1,000 people who will."
Such is the growth in popularity of Fenway, which has been sold out for 388 consecutive regular-season games despite the cost.
According to Team Marketing Report's 2007 Fan Cost Index, which includes two average adult tickets, two average children's tickets, four small sodas, two small beers, four hot dogs, two programs, parking, and two adult caps, the Red Sox far surpassed the runner-up Yankees, $313.83 to $222.53. But while that may seem high, according to TMR, a Chicago-based sports marketing and research concern, those 2007 numbers are actually less than it would take for a family of four to see a Patriots, Celtics, or Bruins game.
"We need revenue to fuel the vision that we have, and the vision is for a competitive, entertaining, winning team year in and year out - I say winning, I don't necessarily mean winning the World Series - and to preserve, protect, enhance, improve Fenway Park," president/CEO Larry Lucchino said yesterday in a conference call. "In addition, to restock our minor league system is the gasoline that makes the car go in those three directions."
Fenway prices have skyrocketed in recent years, notably in the field boxes, which will incur the greatest increase for next season, jumping from $105 to $125 per game. As recently as 1997, field boxes cost $26. When the Sox won their first World Series in 2004, the cost had gone up to to $75.
"I don't have a problem with it," said Joe O'Donnell, who was part of a local group that tried to purchase the team in 2002 and who owns premium season tickets. "The premium seats could go for more but they've been very careful with the prices of the other seats. With the previous ownership group, it was like the Stone Age. As long as they stay competitive, the market will bear it. Fenway is a unique shrine and they are taking advantage of it."
Vice president of sales and marketing Sam Kennedy said there isn't a direct correlation between the latest World Series win and the ticket increase. The price changes likely would have been implemented had the Sox not won the title.
With the second-highest payroll in baseball, behind that of the Yankees, the Sox need to find a way to pay for marquee players, from the $103 million for Daisuke Matsuzaka to the $70 million for J.D. Drew to the impending big bucks it might take to re-sign Mike Lowell.
"As long as they find better players, I'm all in favor of it," said season ticket-holder Steve Garvin of Westford. "The time will come when it will just be too much, but it's a great product and they provide great entertainment."
While the team declined to increase 82 percent of the tickets before this past season (all non-premium seats), just about every spot in the park now will have at least a few dollars added to help pay for the 2008 Fenway improvements, apparently projected for $40 million-$45 million.
"Before these guys owned it," said Dave Kazanjian, who will be charged $13,770 for his pair of '08 box seats, "it seemed nothing happened to the park or the team - everything was stagnant. Now you see improvements in the park and on the roster. And, hey, two World Series championships in four years. Obviously, that's value given back. No one's ever happy about prices going up, but they're providing value."
Beyond that is the challenge of competing with the new Yankee Stadium, which is set to open in 2009. That will bring even more revenue to the Yankees, with likely increased ticket prices and far more seats than Fenway can hold.
"We held ticket prices last year at least on all the non-premium seats," Lucchino said. "And on some of these categories, we've held them at the same price for several years, especially the bleacher seats and the lower-price seats.
"It was our view that this was time. It seemed appropriate to make some changes, increases. We're also aware that there will be some major changes within our division. The Yankees are about to go into a new ballpark in 2009, and I believe they will have a gigantic increase, allowing them to do what they're able to do."
If the Yankees follow past practice, that money will go to premium free agents and their own stars, which the Sox would also like to continue to do.
"We are very cognizant of our neighbors to the south and the revenue opportunities that they have," Kennedy said. "The argument that we're the little engine that could may be wearing thin. Right or wrong, we do feel like we're trying to keep up with the Joneses. Their revenues in their new stadium are going to be dramatic. They're going to be enhanced by their new seats, their new club seats, their new amenities."
Though the Red Sox also announced that the lower bleachers will increase from $23 to $26, and the infield grandstand, right-field roof boxes, and right-field boxes will go up from $45 to $50, among other hikes, not all ticket changes were released. Pricing for Green Monster seats and right-field roof boxes will be announced in 2008, and the prices for premium seats, like the
Not all tickets will go up. The upper bleachers will stay at $12, general standing-room tickets will hold at $20, and Conigliaro's Corner and pavilion standing room will remain at $25.
Kevin Paul Dupont, Jackie MacMullan, and Reid Laymance of the Globe staff contributed to this report; Amalie Benjamin can be reached at email@example.com.