The Chicago Cubs are back in the scalping business. As of Monday, February 15, the team is offering fans single-game tickets for all Cubs games at prices over face value.
The MasterCard First Chance Presale ends Thursday at midnight. The Cubs are offering their tickets at 20 percent over face value; fans paying for their tickets with a MasterCard pay 15 percent over face value. Tickets for all 89 home games are available, including opening day. Remaining tickets will be sold at face value beginning Friday.
Tickets to Cubs games are prized among the team’s fans because of the small size of Wrigley Field and the large number of season ticket holders. Last year the Cubs averaged 39,610 fans a game in a stadium with a 41,160 capacity. There are 110,000 people on the waiting list for Cubs season tickets.
The Cubs have not disclosed what percentage of single-game tickets are being offered during the presale. Last season, the team experienced some difficulty selling tickets, but for 2010 the team was planning to raise the prices on some seats.
According to the New York Times, Cubs management believes fans will pay the premium to guarantee themselves tickets to the game they want, and to avoid having to buy from brokers and on marketplaces like StubHub, where they believe prices can be extravagant.
“We believe there are fans who will pay extra, just like they’ll pay for a Fast Pass at the amusement park,” Wally Hayward, the Cubs’ chief marketing officer, told the Times.
The Cubs have one of the most expensive average tickets in baseball. According to analysis on ESPN.com, Cubs average game prices for season ticket holders are up from the 2009 season by about $5. The increase is partly due to the Cubs unveiling a “platinum games” tier to their pricing system. Now ticket holders with coveted seats pay more for their seats during popular games, like those against the Philadelphia Phillies and St. Louis Cardinals. The team increased the number of platinum games for the 2010 season, from 14 to 26.
The Cubs also attribute the increase in ticket prices to the secondary market. Cubs president Crane Kenney told the Chicago Tribune that 25 percent of platinum tickets ended up on StubHub, which is also the official reseller of MLB.
Speaking about season ticket holders selling their tickets on the secondary market, Kenney said, “It’s a fact of life. We’re over that. That’s fine. So we did the $5 [average] increase on those premium games as a way of trying to push the burden of our ticket price increase on those games, leaving the ticket prices flat for most of our games, for most of our seats.”
The Cubs have a history of scalping their own tickets. In 2003, the franchise was unsuccessfully sued by fans for funneling its tickets to a brokerage and making a profit off the mark-up. The Cubs successfully argued that because the tickets were sold through a separate company, Wrigley Field Premium Ticket Services, and not the team, the transactions were legal and not in violation of the Illinois Scalping Act. That Act bars event coordinators from selling tickets to their own events at prices over face value.