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Sports Business

Colts ticket price hike has far-reaching effects

March 1, 2010
KEYWORDS Sports Business

All Indianapolis Colts season ticket holders will see a price increase in 2010. That’s the simple analysis.

Now for a little context.

My four-function calculator tells me the Colts will boost ticket revenue by $3.4 million to $4.4 million next year. The high end comes if the Colts host a playoff game or two.

The Colts last season generated about $55 million in ticket revenue at Lucas Oil Stadium. The Colts’ 2010 hike is not a huge percentage increase, but one no doubt Colts fans will feel. They’re not the only ones who will feel the pain.

That $4 million or so increase also likely comes at the expense of the Indiana Pacers, Indianapolis Indians, area movie theaters, and other entertainment outlets.

The truth is, there are only so many discretionary dollars to go around in any market, and in one the size of Indianapolis, that number could easily be calculated on my four-function calculator as well.

With a 16,000-deep season ticket waiting list, and the Colts still a threat to win a Super Bowl, the team’s faithful will fork over the extra bucks, no doubt. But that still means Colts’ ticket holders have fewer discretionary dollars to throw at other entertainment outlets—especially in a down economy.

So what are other NFL teams doing? The Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints haven’t announced their plans yet. But I’m guessing it’s going to cost a tad more to sit in the Super Dome next year.

The Colts join the ranks of the Chicago Bears and Buffalo Bills as teams increasing ticket prices. The New England Patriots and Cleveland Browns are standing pat.

As a general rule, NFL teams in this economy seem to hike their ticket prices every other or every third year.

The Colts, for the most part, are increasing their tickets $4 or $5 across the board. A little more for a few of the prime seats. The Bears, on the other hand, have a wider range of increases. Chicago fans will see hikes ranging from $2 to $17 for non-club seats and $10 to $20 for club seats in 2010.

There’s one last thing to consider when pondering these ticket prices. Where the teams stand in league rank regarding ticket prices. The Bills for instance have long offered one of the NFL’s lowest ticket prices.

Not so for the Patriots and Colts.

According to Team Marketing Report, the Colts last season had an average ticket price of $82.79, above the $74.99 league average. The 2010 increase might push the Colts’ ticket prices even a bit higher than league average.

But the Colts aren’t in the same league as the Dallas Cowboys and Patriots, who are No. 1 and No. 2 in terms of ticket prices. The Cowboys average ticket price for 2009 was $159.65, according to Team Marketing Report and the Patriots came in with an average price of $117.84.

Even with their 2010 increase, the Bills are still quite a bargain. With a 2009 average ticket price of $51.24, they have quite a way to go to reach league average.

The Saints face the trickiest dilemma of all. My guess is that’s why the champs haven’t announced their plans yet.

The team’s 2009 average ticket price of $62.22 was among the lowest in the NFL. New Orleans’ economy is still in post-Katrina recovery mode. But team owner Tom Benson isn’t usually in the giving mood, and he’s bound to want to strike while the iron is hot.

But how much is too much for this small-market town? If Benson overreaches here, he could kill all or most of the good will that Drew Brees and the Lombardi Trophy have delivered to the Bayou this season.

Ticket pricing is a tricky business no matter what city a team is in. That’s why teams don’t send out press releases trumpeting it. Each season ticket holder gets a notice in the mail—with a form prompting renewal of course.

It’s the worst kind of guessing game for a team’s sales honchos. A conservative approach causes a team to leave money on the table in the near term.

Too aggressive and the long-term damage is incalculable.  

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