108: Warning to Jays fans, tickets are going fast

Don't expect too many empty seats at the Rogers Centre in 2016. (Photo: Jeremy King)

Don't expect too many empty seats at the Rogers Centre in 2016. (Photo: Jeremy King)

By: Tyler King

Canadian Baseball Network

If you’re under the age of 30, then 2015 was likely the first time you’ve ever had to grovel for Blue Jays tickets.

Sure, the home opener and Canada Day were always big draws, but aside from those dates getting tickets for a Jays game at the Rogers Centre was about as easy as getting them for the Toronto Rock over at the ACC. Oh I’m sorry, the Rock are a professional lacrosse team in - ah, you get the point.

It wasn’t long ago (June 2015) that fans used to be able to walk to the ‘Dome five minutes before a Jays game and basically trade a hot dog for a ticket with some desperate, starving scalper.

But oh the times, they are a changin’ ... 

As somebody who almost sold his organs for playoff tickets last year, believe me, I can attest.

Looking back I’d probably be better off had I just given up the kidney. Instead I chose to lie shamelessly to VISA in order to get them to extend my credit - a burden I carry with me every time I’m mailed my monthly statement. 

(THAT GAME 5 THOUGH.)

Let me be clear, I’ll likely be paying off those debts long after I’m dead but don’t think for a second that I hold any regrets.

I’m more than happy with all the success the Jays had, finishing atop the American League East in 2015 and adding their first banner to the rafters in 22 years. 

I’m happy that I was able to celebrate Game 5 of the ALDS with a joy and fervor and hangover that I once thought could only be reserved for the day I won the Powerball. 

I’m happy the Jays have a roster full of all-stars that include Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, Troy Tulowitzki, and Russell Martin.

And, most of all, I’m happy to see that so many people are rediscovering their love for the Toronto Blue Jays and, more importantly, the great game of baseball.

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I think I speak for all Toronto-born millennials when I say that finally seeing the Rogers Centre sold out on a regular basis - yes, even during random mid-week games against irrelevant teams named the Oakland Athletics - was a greater experience than we had grown up imagining.

But in baseball, as in life, success often comes with a cost. Literally, in this case I mean money.

If you’re lucky enough to get tickets to your games of choice this season, do not be alarmed if your credit card bill starts to resemble mine. You’ve been warned. 

It’s long been reported that the 2016 season would see a spike in ticket prices. However, with the new “Dynamic Pricing” system the Blue Jays are rolling out this year it’s not so easy to predict the full financial impact on the average (and not-so-average) fan.

So what is dynamic pricing, you ask? Great question, ‘cause I’ll admit I hadn’t heard about it until two weeks ago.

Let’s start here:

dy-nam-ic adj. 1. (of a process or system) characterized by constant change, activity, or progress. “Thanks to dynamic pricing, Tyler was forced into a life of crime in order to afford his Jays-Yankees tickets.”

Essentially dynamic pricing means the price of Jays tickets can and will fluctuate over the course of the season. There is no “set” price for the year. And if that sounds a little wonky, it’s because it is (although that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s all bad).

According to the Blue Jays official website, the fluctuation in price will be based on a variety of factors. Such factors include: “the day of week, opponent, team record, supply and demand of tickets purchased by fans...” etc. 

In other words, you could see one (lower) price if the Jays are doing poorly in the standings, and a different (higher) price if they start doing a well.

There are few likely reasons why the team has chosen this route. 

Most obvious, they are trying to capitalize on the current fan interest, which is undoubtedly the highest it’s been since ’92-’93. The model may be a crude application of basic economics - specifically, supply and demand - but it does help them justify a price/profit increase while not appearing overtly sleazy in the process.

Dynamic pricing is also a way of encouraging fans to purchase season tickets or flex packs early-on, as those prices are fixed and will not be subject to any fluctuations as single-game purchases will be.

According to the Blue Jays website, season tickets and flex packs “guarantee fans that they will pay the best price for their selected seat(s).”

However, if you can’t commit to 10 or 20 or 81 games and instead decide to go the single-game route, not only will you pay a higher price but you may find yourself struggling to decide when the best time to purchase your tickets might be. 

Think of it like gambling. If you buy tickets well in advance and the price drops closer to the game date, sorry but you lost - “all sales are final” says bluejays.com

Now to be fair, the opposite can also true, and in such cases dynamic pricing may be beneficial to the consumer. But if that’s the case then chances are the team is not doing very well in the standings, so will the average fan really be inclined to go even at a reduced rate?

If you’re a die-hard fan who lives close to the ‘dome, then you very well might find some good deals a week or two prior to games against crappy teams on crappy dates. 

Hooray?

(I joke, but the truth is you’ll definitely find me on those Tuesday nights in the 500 level, unshaven with a portable radio, headphones, and a couple of empty Budweisers ...)

This is probably a good time to remind you that everything I’ve just said is contingent on one fact - that you can actually get tickets!

It’s a difficult concept for a lot of people, I know, and many modern fans haven’t quite grasped this whole ‘sellout’ and ‘buying tickets in advance’ business.

Take, for instance, the Jays first home series. In years past, the day after the home opener has been one of the saddest scenes of the season, what with the stadium’s sea of empty seats and the twitter mob hypocritically lecturing the interwebs about fan disloyalty.

Last season, the home opener against the Tampa Bay Rays drew over 48,000 fans. The very next day they barely cracked 17,000. 

This season, however, things appear to be different. The entire opening home series against the Boston Red Sox is already nearly sold out. 

Some reports say home opener tickets were gone within 15 minutes of them going on sale. There are only a few single seats available for the second game of the series (on Saturday), and only select rows in the 500 level remain for Sunday.

To be fair, last year’s opening home series began on a Monday against a much-less hyped opponent, but the increase in fan interest becomes indisputable when you examine the ticket sales for the first 2016 weekday home game - Monday, April 25th against the Chicago White Sox. 

You can go on TicketMaster and see for yourself, but many sections for that game are already sold out.

I even took a look at remaining tickets for some home games all the way in September, specifically the New York Yankees series taking place from Friday, September 23rd to Monday the 26th.

If you hadn’t even thought about September I don’t blame you. This is all very new to me too. But you should know that Saturday and Sunday of that series are sold out. Seats for Monday are scarce. Friday seats are even scarcer.

Interestingly, the same seat in Section 113 costs $75 on the Friday and $80 on the Saturday. #DynamicPricing? Maybe.

But regardless of the price increase, I can tell you this:

If the team starts off the 2016 campaign how they ended last season, there won’t be any price, dynamic or not, that isn’t worth it.

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Follow Tyler and #Section108 on twitter: @tylerjoeph108