Some fans of Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls will face a bit of sticker shock when they attempt to purchase their 2012 season tickets.
The organization last week announced ticket price increases of up to 53 percent for season ticket holders in the premium midfield seats of Red Bull Arena’s lower level.
These price hikes are reportedly part of an effort to rectify ticket pricing problems that arose during the club’s first season in New Jersey’s Red Bull Arena two years ago, according to the team.
For the past two years, season ticket holders sitting in the lower level midfield sections paid the same price as those sitting directly above in the upper deck level — a total of $720 for the 2011 season. Next season, the best lower level seats in Section 126 will increase significantly in price to $1,100.
Last week, the Star-Ledger newspaper quoted Red Bulls’ president of business operations Chris Heck as he attempted to explain the price hike: “I could have waited to gradually do the changes, but my thought was, ‘Okay, the people in the great seats for the really inexpensive prices got two years of a gift. They got a really good deal, and they should get a good deal because they were the faithful fans.”
The new pricing structure was announced just as the team, the only original Major League Soccer team never to win the championship, is poised to make this season’s playoffs. With a win against the Philadelphia Union last week, the team clinched a playoff berth and is preparing to meet FC Dallas in a wild card match tonight, October 26.
While the prices of those premium seats are increasing, Heck was quick to add that 15,000 seats elsewhere in the stadium will actually cost less next season, with more than half of the total number of seats going for less than $20 per game next year.
With professional soccer still struggling to attract a solid base in the United States, why make the pricing changes now? Considering that four of the team’s last six games were sold-out, the organization likely seized on this opportunity to capitalize on fans’ goodwill by instituting the changes.
But price hikes don’t always play out as smoothly as hoped.
Just this year, in response to Britain’s Chelsea Football Club increasing its ticket prices, fans organized a boycott of the team’s October 19 Champions League match against Belgium’s Genk Club. The results were mixed, with the 1,000 free tickets distributed by the Club acting to mitigate the effects of fan absence. But at 38,518, the crowd still did not match the 40,000 Chelsea saw last year for the series.