With the collective bargaining agreement between players and owners due to expire shortly after next month’s Super Bowl and a lockout appearing more likely by the day, the National Football League is staring at the type of uncertainty it hasn’t endured since the players strike in 1987. But, even though the 2011 season may or may not start on time — and may not start at all — some teams are doing their best to generate optimism among their fans by maintaining or dropping their ticket prices.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced this week that they would reduce prices at Raymond James Stadium next season while the Miami Dolphins and Tennessee Titans recently decided to hold the line on prices at Sun Life Stadium and LP Field, respectively.
The cost cutting by the Buccaneers comes as little surprise following a season in which they sold out none of their eight home games — thereby resulting in television blackouts in the Tampa Bay area — even though the Buccaneers were the pleasant surprise in football. The Buccaneers went 10-6, an NFL-best seven-win improvement on their 2009 record, and missed out on the last NFC wild card spot on tiebreakers.
According to a statement released by the Buccaneers, adult ticket prices will drop by as much as 31 percent next year. The cheapest adult ticket will be $35 per game while youth tickets begin at $17.50 per game. In addition, the Buccaneers will slice parking fees to as little as $13.50 per game while also offering season ticket holders a 10 percent discount on food and merchandise purchased at Raymond James, as well as the opportunity to pay for their season tickets over a 10-month span.
While a three-season playoff drought is partially to blame for the Buccaneers’ attendance woes, a bigger factor is the sour economy in the area. Tampa has been particularly hard-hit by the recession, with unemployment reaching 12.6 percent in December 2010.
Neither the Dolphins nor Titans fared nearly as well as the Buccaneers this season. The Dolphins were just 1-7 at home, matching the franchise record for fewest home wins in a season, and owner Stephen Ross created negative headlines when he tried hiring ex-Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh as head coach even though Tony Sparano was still employed (Harbaugh ended up signing with the San Francisco 49ers and Sparano received a contract extension).
Ross may win back some fans, though, with the news reported in the Miami Herald Saturday, January 15 that he would not raise ticket prices — the second time in his three seasons as owner that he has not raised prices. The price freeze may also help the Dolphins to continue building up a season ticket base that took quite a hit after a franchise-worst 1-15 season in 2007. The Dolphins sold 61,121 season tickets in 2006 — their most since 1987, according to the Herald — but saw that figure fall to 46,131 in 2008 before rising slightly in 2009 (49,415) and 2010 (51,069).
The Titans appeared as if they could be one of the AFC’s best teams when they raced out to a 5-2 start, but quarterback Vince Young’s season-ending thumb injury and subsequent banishment from the team resulted in a freefall that saw the Titans end up tied for last place in the AFC South at 6-10. This marks the third straight year the Titans have missed the playoffs but also the second consecutive season in which they will not raise ticket prices. Clarksvilleonline.com reports the Titans’ average ticket price is between $43 and $83, which ranks among the bottom eight in the 32-team NFL. The Titans have sold out all 124 games they have played at LP Field since it opened in 1999.