PERHAPS baseball is not immune to the economic recession after all.
For the first time in 14 seasons, the Boston Red Sox are not raising ticket prices for 2009. And, according to reports, the New York Yankees are still looking for buyers for seven luxury suites at their new stadium.
Andrew Zimbalist, a professor of economics at Smith College and an expert on sports economics, tells The New York Times today that this is a sign of tough times ahead.
“It means than even with a wildly popular team, the anticipated economic condition next spring and summer is so weak that it will not sustain further increases in ticket prices.”
Maybe so, but let’s keep it real here. While most of us are having to tighten our belts, the fat cats of Major League Baseball will still get their cream.
According to market research, the Red Sox had the highest average ticket price ($48.80) in 2008, which represented an increase of 10.1 percent on 2007. The Chicago Cubs were second at $42.49 and the Yankees third at $36.58.
Crowds and wages still sky high
The Red Sox hardly need worry about falling demand. The last 469 games at Fenway Park have been sell-outs, a run dating back to May 15, 2003.
They will increase revenue in 2009 by squeezing in another 560 seats at baseball’s smallest ballpark, increasing its capacity to 36,108.
The new Yankee Stadium will have a lower capacity than the old stadium (52,235 compared to 56,886) and while you can still buy a seat in the bleachers for $12, you’ll have to pay between $500 and $2,500 to sit anywhere near home plate.
At these times of economic gloom and doom, us sports fans need to escape to our fantasy world more than ever. Baseball takes us away from our problems. For a few hours, we can forget reality.
Only when two things happen will I believe that baseball is facing the same problems as Joe Public: Attendances start to fall and the players lower their wage demands.
There is no indication of either happening anytime soon, at least not to the glamour teams. I’m sure the Red Sox and Yankees will have no trouble filling their stadiums once again next season.
Manny Ramirez will get more than the $25 million a year the Los Angeles Dodgers are currently offering and someone – probably the Yanks – will give CC Sabathia an insane, long-term contract. Hard times, indeed.