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WSI News - Season Features

First published at WSI

First published at WSI, November, 2000.

Price Increase reveals poor stadium design.

by George Bova

Once again, the price of seats at Comiskey Park reveals the poor design of the stadium not even ten years old.  The price increase announced for the 2001 season continues a trend we documented at White Sox Interactive over a year ago.  Beyond a cold sterile environment, New Comiskey Park is killing the White Sox potential revenue streams because of fundamental design flaws the Sox failed to understand before the stadium was built.  These management gaffes have the cost the team at least as much as supposed apathy amongst the fans.

Comiskey has been panned by Sox fans, the media, and baseball purists as the worst of the new stadiums opened in the 1990's.  It lacks most of the fan-friendly (and expensive) accoutrements all its contemporaries possess.  Camden Yards has a train warehouse, Enron Field has a choo-choo train, and Edison Park has a volcano.  Nothing so cute can be found on Chicago's South Side.  The $125 million spent building Comiskey would barely cover the cost of the retractable roof above Milwaukee's new Miller Field.

Clearly Comiskey Park was built for far less money than these new baseball "amusement parks".  However, that does not give White Sox management a pass on the obvious mistakes they made designing New Comiskey Park.  Once again they've proven just how wrong they were back in the late-80's when their insistence on the final design of New Comiskey Park created the revenue drain the entire franchise now suffers -- and Sox fans are blamed for.  The upper deck of New Comiskey keeps costing the Sox more and more revenue.  The new prices for 2001 will accelerate this trend.

Here are the new prices the Sox announced for the 2001 season...

  Club Level Box 

Reserved

Bleachers
     Lower   Upper   Lower   Upper   
1991 $16.00 $13.00 $11.00 $9.00 $8.00 $6.00
2000 $22.00 $22.00 $15.00 $17.00 $10.00 $14.00
2001 $26.00 $26.00 $18.00 $20.00 $12.00 $18.00
Increase +$4.00 +$4.00 +$3.00 +$3.00 +$2.00 +$4.00
Price 162% 200% 163% 250% 150% 300%
vs. 1991

We first wrote about the disparity in Comiskey price increases over a year ago.  The cost of doing nothing is significant.  We predicted someday the White Sox would be the first sports team to price bleacher seats higher than box seats.  Compare the new bleacher seat price with upper deck boxes.  There was a $1 difference in 2000; now it is zero. Prophetic?  Not really.  Just look at the different rates of price increases the Sox have taken on each seat price since 1991 (highlighted in red above).

Sox tickets never used.

The upper deck is killing our White Sox.  The Sox can't afford to raise prices in these God-forsaken seats because nobody wants to buy tickets up there -- even at discounted prices!  The Sox keep jacking the price of all the lower deck seats because those are the only seats anybody wants to sit in.  

Lower deck seats account for all three of the highest price increases since 1991, the year the new stadium opened.  Bleacher seats now cost 3-times as much as they did ten years ago!  

Unfortunately there aren't too many bleacher seats for the Sox to realize the full potential of these fat increases.  While all the seats on the lower deck took the full $4 price increase, the Sox have squandered a chance to take a similarly fat increase on the upper deck seats because they know nobody would pay the added price.  The upper deck seats went up just $2, half what the Sox could have gotten had those seats been on the lower deck.

Please explain to me how the media has made this into a "problem" created by Sox fans?

The design of New Comiskey Park was entirely the creation of the White Sox front office -- taxpayers only footed the bill.  Consider how wrong the Sox were back in 1991.

1.) They priced the club level seats the most-expensive at $16.00 each.  Demand has been weak for these seats which have increased the least in price, just 62% more expensive in 2001.  They are further from the playing field than the lower deck box seats but offer fans added amenities like seat-side service.  The Sox thought Sox fans would pay more for the amenities rather than a better view of the game.  WRONG!

2.) They priced the bleachers at just $6.00 (cheapest in the ballpark) and the lower deck reserved (also in the outfield) at $9.00, just one dollar more than what they priced the upper deck nosebleeds that first year.   The Sox thought nobody wanted to sit in the outfield.  WRONG!

3.) They created an upper deck 29-rows high to accommodate what they expected to be overwhelming preference for seats along the baselines.  They figured Sox fans wouldn't care about the height, the lack of access to restrooms and concessions, or the vertigo-inducing steep pitch to the grandstand.  WRONG!

So now the Sox are harnessed to a baseball stadium just ten years old that contains 10,000 upper deck seats so poorly-located, the team is incapable of raising the prices on them except at marginal rates compared to other seats inside the ballpark.  

If the Sox had designed more seats in the lower deck (regardless of infield or outfield location), they could easily have garnered the same accelerated revenue increases the other lower deck seats have generated.  In fact they finally admitted as much last August when they announced a Comiskey renovation plan that removes the worst of the upper deck seats and places them close to the foul lines and outfield wall on the lower deck.  After nine years of stonewalling the issue, it was a "mea culpa" for the Sox front office to take such a step.

Next time Mark Giangreco or someone else in the media takes a shot at you as an indifferent Sox fan, please remind them of this fact.


George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive, a site devoted to the FANS of the Chicago White Sox.

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