On and off the field, the New York Yankees are a different beast than their Major League Baseball brethren. The Yankees further confirmed the obvious this week, when they turned conventional wisdom on its ear by raising the prices of some tickets on the heels of a disappointing — by their standards, anyway — season.

The Yankees, which lost to the Texas Rangers in the American League Championship Series last month, plan to increase the prices of some field level and outfield seats as well as some of the popular bleacher seats for 2011. The most expensive field level tickets (rows 12-30) will be $260 per seat, up from $250, while the second-priciest tier of outfield seats will rise to $110, up for $100. The next three levels of outfield seats will rise $5 apiece to $80, $65 and $50.

The field level seats are still considerably cheaper than in 2009, when the Yankees received plenty of criticism for the high cost of premium tickets during their first season in the new Yankee Stadium. In September 2009, a few weeks before the Yankees won their 27th World Series, the team announced that the price for tickets in rows 12 through 30 would be reduced from their original price of $325.

“I’m a little bit surprised, given the economy and what’s going on out there,” Jeremi Conaway, the vice president of Philadelphia-based Wanamaker Ticket Office, told TicketNews. “When you watch some of the Yankees games, you see a lot of empty seats, so it makes me believe that some of the tickets are overpriced. What are you going to do? It’s the nature of the beast.”

Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost emphasized in an interview with the Associated Press that the prices for more than half the non-premium seating — 53 percent — will be unchanged for next year, including the cheapest bleacher seats ($5) and seating in the grandstand ($20). The most expensive bleacher seats will rise from $12 to $15. He also said the Yankees chose to raise the prices of their most expensive seating after tracking the resale value of those ducats on StubHub.com.
“We’re not trying to take away the ability of fans to make a profit when they resell tickets, but the ones where we raised prices were not selling for just above face, but were far above face,” Trost told the Associated Press. When the new stadium opened, the team priced certain premium seats at $2,500 each, but slashed those prices later in that season, as rows of empty prime seats were often visible during televised games.
The Yankees led the majors in attendance this season (46,491), a season after leading the AL with an average crowd of 45,918. Still, even with the Yankees’ success at the gate, the timing seemed off for a modest price hike given their failure to reach the World Series this year as well as the lingering recession.

While the high-end seats may have been popular on the resale market, Conaway said he sensed that some of the novelty of the new Yankee Stadium has worn off for the casual fan. “It’s still good because it’s the Yankees, but it wasn’t like anything we’ve seen in years past,” Conaway said. “I think, obviously, when the Stadium opened, everybody wanted to see the new Stadium. But now that most people have done that, the buzz just isn’t what it used to be.

“I can understand [the price hike] if they go out and sign Cliff Lee to a monster deal and re-sign Derek Jeter and do all the right things,” Conaway said. “I guess they’ll justify it. But not winning the World Series — not even getting to the World Series — and raising your ticket prices, when your salary is 10 times more than anybody else in the league, it’s a little questionable.”