After years of hand-wringing over the decision, Pittsburgh Pirates execs have decided to raise prices on some tickets for the 2012 season. The last...

After years of hand-wringing over the decision, Pittsburgh Pirates execs have decided to raise prices on some tickets for the 2012 season.

The last time the Pirates raised prices was before the 2002 season, and they paid for it dearly. The price increase came after a 62-100 season, the first at their then-new ballpark PNC Park, and the decision was met with great anger by fans who felt the price hike unfair.

Though team officials have at times denied that their reluctance to raise prices since was driven by this reaction, this week the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review quoted Pirates President Frank Coonelly as describing a price hike as a “sensitive topic” for fans.

“The 2002 price increase was not well-received,” said Coonelly, “and for good reason. And as a result of that, probably, the decision in terms of pricing our product…was made more difficult.”

These years of hesitance to raise ticket prices have resulted in the Pirates offering the lowest-priced average ticket this season, at $15.30. For most Pirates fans, the club’s 2012 prices include only modest increases, taking the average ticket to $16.11. Some tickets will not increase, and some will even drop in price. For example, upper grandstand tickets for both adults and children will experience a decrease in price for 2012, with adult tickets going from $16 to $10, and children’s tickets dropping from $10 to $6. A new ticket plan for the lower-outfield box will take ticket prices from this year’s $21 to $16.04.

But some fans are sure to feel the pinch, with single game tickets behind the dugout up $10 to $45 per game, and seats behind home plate rising $30 to $225. The club will also split sections by price for the first time next season, with all sections having two-tiered pricing. For example, seats in the rows just behind the third base line and back to row Q will go for $35, with rows farther back selling for $33. On the second level, the first three rows will cost $55 per ticket, and all rows behind will be $50.

The club’s long term plan is to continue modest increases for the next few seasons in order to achieve ticket prices that are more in line with the rest of Major League Baseball. Coonelly has stated that the increased revenue received from the price changes will be used for the draft, international signings and payroll, and for capital improvements.

The Pirates had a strong first half of their season in 2011, giving fans hope that the club could pull out a winning season for the first time in 19 years. Since the All-Star Game, however, the team has hit a slump, most recently losing their last five games and going 2-8 for their last 10, as of today, September 2. While already doing better than last year’s record of 57-105, the Pirates are still running under .500 at .453, or 62-75, and they sit in the bottom half of the NL Central Division.

But the fans, to some extent, seem to be coming along for the ride anyway. Home game attendance has risen significantly this year, with the most recent MLB attendance numbers putting average attendance at 24,928 per game, translating to an average increase of nearly 5,000 more tickets sold per game over last year.