Tom Trudeau ’09: Did the Yanks price out all but the ghosts?

Sports Columnist
Wednesday, April 22, 2009

The move to the new Yankee Stadium “pleased” the ghosts of its predecessor, said Lonn Trost, Chief Operating Officer of the New York Yankees, in an April 9 interview with ESPN. “They all came willingly.”

No wonder  — they have thousands of empty luxury suites and field level seats to lounge in during the games.

During the Yanks’ forgettable split with the Cleveland Indians in the new Yankee Stadium’s inaugural series there was one very conspicuous problem — no one was sitting at field level. In a shocking display of the Yankees’ poor foresight and the country’s struggling economy, opening day at the brand new stadium in the greatest sports market in the world did not manage to completely fill the seats.

The Yankees have downplayed the significance of the attendance figures. On opening day, Yankees officials pointed out that sponsor tickets negotiated for free by marketing partners in advance were not counted in the official attendance records. After a second disappointing crowd on Friday afternoon, Trost pointed out low figures at game two of the first home series in the old stadium as well.

But after four consecutive games of empty seats, the Yankees, who a year ago managed sellout crowds against even the least popular opponents, are running out of excuses.
From a business standpoint, one of the biggest reasons to build a new stadium was the anticipated increased revenue from additional luxury suites and field-level seats priced exponentially higher than they were in the old stadium. So just how badly have the Yankees overestimated the market for premium tickets in their shiny new $1.5 billion investment?

According to the Associated Press, the “Legends” Suites, which were especially vacant during the opening series, currently sell for between $500 and $2,625 per game, figures that even the most free-spending corporate sponsors have balked at.

On Monday, the writers at River Avenue Blues, a popular Yankees blog, pointed out other significant price jumps that seem particularly out of touch with today’s economy. Field-level seats behind home plate that used to cost $250 last year for season ticket holders are going for $1,800 in the new stadium, while other field level tickets that cost $85-$135 a season ago are currently priced at $350.

Fortunately for the Yankees, most of the national media have failed to take notice yet, sparing the organization any additional embarrassment after an opening day flop and a historic 22-4 drubbing, including 14 second-inning runs, on Saturday. In addition, ESPN’s Buster Olney has reported on increasingly loud whispers of a wind tunnel blowing out towards the short porch in right field that has Yankee Stadium playing like Coors Field, with 20 home runs in its first four games as evidence.

Still, if the low attendance figures persist, it won’t be long before the Yankees have a public relations nightmare on their hands, not to mention a serious potential revenue problem as the most profitable seats remain empty.

On the field, the normally feared Yankee Stadium crowd has seemed noticeably docile on account of the thousands of empty seats and droves of fans who have taken to exploring the stadium’s exciting new restaurants, exhibitions and monuments instead of actually watching the game.

Only time will tell if the new stadium is a success from an economic and a baseball standpoint, but without the option of lowering prices for fear of causing an uproar for season ticket holders, the Yankees have a very serious problem on their hands and no viable solutions.

Tom Trudeau ’09 is 25-1 online in MLB the Show 2009.
Can you say sub-1 ERA?


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