February 27, 2018

Annual Season Ticket Hike

The NBA All-Star break seemed like a good time for me to take some much deserved personal time off so I've been out of town and mostly out of touch for the last two weeks, including missing the last two Wizards home games. Seems like there's a lot been going on here around this team recently. And of course it's all been typically Wizards-like.

Let me see if I got all this straight.

Bradley Beal participated in his first All-Star Game, scoring 14 points in 17 minutes of action for the victorious Team LeBron. For his efforts (which I'm thankful were limited to just 17 minutes) Bradley picked up a cool $100K for his team winning the game, which I'm sure helped offset the sting of not making it out of the first round of the Three Point Contest on All-Star Saturday Night.

On the Wizards side of things, the team went 3-0 on the road, including coming back from a 27 point deficit in New York against the Knicks and beating the Cavaliers in Cleveland. They celebrated that victory over the Cavs by laying an egg at home in true Wizards fashion against the Charlotte Hornets two days later before rebounding Sunday night to pound the super hot Philadelphia 76ers (I get the Sixers had a favorable schedule recently) into submission for an easy win. If this team could just stop losing to teams it should beat easily...

On the player movement front, it looks like the Wizards missed out on Joe Johnson, Brandan Wright, Greg Monroe and Marco Belinelli and settled for handing a 10 day contract to point guard Ramon Sessions. Why we continue to insist on finding a point guard rather than getting a reliable shooting guard to back up Bradley Beal continues to amaze me. Jodie Meeks ain't working out, folks. Please get someone who can knock down a shot behind Bradley Beal before his body completely wears out this season.

Oh...and then season ticket prices went up. Again. And that's what this post is really about. This is not a tradition I like at all.

Let me say I was dreading this news. I got the email while I was somewhere in Tanzania and had to open it immediately. I needed to know what the damage was. The resale market for Wizards tickets is hotter than I have ever seen it since I first started tracking it during the 2013-2014 season so I thought it would be bad. I'll have more on this after the season is over but suffice it to say that if I know the secondary market is hopping, so do the folks that run the Wizards and price the tickets.

The introductory screen to my renewal information features a ticking clock and a statement from the Wizards about how happy the team was to present me my renewal information. I bet they were.

So let's have it. What's the damage?

Not yet.

First up? A description of the upcoming renovations to Capital One Arena. New seats? OK, sure, I'll take a new seat. Better food choices? I've been pushing for those for years. Upgraded clubs? Why do I care? Can't get into those anyway. Better sound system? Won't turn that down but does it win us more games? Retail store open all year round? Don't care. New sponsors? Who on Earth cares about that? Wait, is all this justifying the increase in season tickets that's coming later in this same announcement I'm reading? Can you just tell me how much more I have to pay?

Not yet.

Gotta go through benefits of being a season ticket holder first, including the less-exciting-than-last-year fluid tickets program, flexible payment options that I don't use, Monumental Sports Network that I don't watch, 6th Man referral program that I can't take advantage of and a decal with my name that I guess is nice but doesn't really add that much value for me. You know what? I know all the bennies already; I've been doing this almost two decades and they pretty much get worse every year. Just give me the bad news.

Nope, not quite yet. 

Up next is the Events & Milestones section, including VIP access at SummerFest which hasn't been held in years (we'll see if that comes true; my money's on no) and then the Renewal Incentives section which basically is $25 of food and drink credit for early renewal. Yes, there's the ability to buy playoff tickets for this offseason (woo hoo!) and a Bradley Beal autographed basketball if you use your Capital One credit or debit card (I won't) but for me, it's basically $25 or like two beers.
NOW, we get to the pricing.
So how bad is it? Well, honestly, not as bad as I expected because when it comes to Wizards ticket prices, I'm a glass half empty (or maybe 3/4 empty) guy. But that doesn't mean there is not a stiff hike here.  It's actually pretty bad.
Let's start with the less bad news (for me) and that's that my seats in the upper deck are only going up $4 per game, which still translates into an increase of $164 per seat for the regular season (a little more with the three preseason games we are forced to buy). Despite the fact that it's only $4 per game more, I'm still kind of annoyed about this. Resale prices have been hovering at an average of about $36 per seat, so technically season ticket holders may be paying more than tickets can be had for on the secondary market. There's still about a 1/4 of the season left so those numbers may ultimately end up being different but I honestly thought this year was the year they would freeze prices upstairs at least for one season. Guess not.

Downstairs, things are worse. Much worse. My per game ticket increase is $16 per game, from $80 this year to $96 next season. Ouch! That's a full 20% above this year's price and pretty much at the same price before season ticket prices were frozen after the 2010-2011 season for a period of three years. Since that freeze was lifted, my seats in the 100 level have increased in price by 92%!!! My season ticket bill this time last year was $9,680; this year, it's $11,560. That's an increase of $1,880 or 19.4%. In one year!!! YIKES!!!!

And I'm not necessarily getting a superior product on the floor. Last year the Wizards won 49 games and made it to the last game of the second round of the playoffs. This year there's probably no way they are getting to 49 and can they really make it to the Eastern Conference Finals? Let's make no mistake here: the only reason prices are going up is because people are willing to pay to go see this team play now. It's not because the team is better.
So what does this all mean for me? Honestly, it means I have to make the same sort of choice next year as I've made this year: pay more to attend every Wizards game which is what I really want to do or start skipping some games so my costs don't go up as much. I've missed more games this year than any single season since my second year as a season ticket holder when I was splitting the games with another person and the biggest reason I've cut back is the cost is getting too steep, particularly to watch a team that has lost to the Mavericks, Jazz, Suns and Trail Blazers.
For a die hard Wizards fan that's about to re-up for his 19th season (with only one division title to date) that choice is difficult to make. I realize the Wizards have every right to keep pace with supply and demand (which is ALL the team is doing here; charging more because they know people will pay) but it doesn't show a ton of loyalty to those fans who've poured money into season tickets for more than a decade. I'm in for another season, but it's getting harder and harder every year and I'm not rushing right out and renewing at the earliest opportunity. This team talks about treating season ticket holders well; I'm not feeling it right now.

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