April 1, 2018

Price Check!

I know what you are thinking. I said just less than three weeks ago that I was done complaining about the cost of Wizards season tickets on this blog. Let's address the issue head on, shall we? 

First, the Wizards lost today to the hapless and nothing-to-play-for Chicago Bulls. Yes, we were on a super-rare afternoon back-to-back but if this team is really supposed to be going places, it needs to beat the Bulls even in Chicago at this point in the season. The Wizards are just one game ahead of the Miami Heat at this point. And the Heat have the tiebreaker for the division title (and higher seed) and they don't have to play the Houston Rockets or the Cleveland Cavaliers on the road.

Second, Twitter happened. I saw a tweet this morning objecting to the price of Wizards upper deck tickets, something I myself have ranted about for the last couple of years. I believe seats in the 400 level are overpriced and I also believe that long-time season ticket holders should get a discount of some sort to allow them to hold on to the tickets they've sat in through multiple, multiple losing seasons. And not just losing. Like horribly losing. That tweet got me wondering, though. Are the Wizards upper deck tickets really overpriced vs. the rest of the NBA? I took a similar look at this issue three years ago. I think it's time for a refresh on this one.

Finally, I'm not complaining. Other than in the previous paragraph.

So...here's the deal with what I've done. I've looked at the price of the front row and the back row seats in most of the arenas around the league and ranked them 1 to whatever (it's not 30, oddly enough). I did my comparison shopping at center court and nowhere else and based on the tweet I saw this morning, I did it only in the upper deck. Just one vertical slice through the building.

Some disclaimers: 

One: This comparison took me less than an hour so it's inherently not researched very thoroughly. I used data from each NBA team's website about the cost of 2018-2019 season tickets, where the information was available. If it wasn't, I moved on. That's why prices aren't ranked 1-30. I just didn't get some.

Two: All arenas are different and I'm not considering that in this quick post. The upper deck in Memphis or Detroit or Portland or wherever else may not be equivalent to the 400 level at Capital One Arena. Some buildings don't even have the same number of levels as the Wizards' home over at 601 F Street NW.

Three: Pricing of NBA tickets is way more nuanced than comparing the price of center court tickets in the uppermost level, even beyond considering the geometry of the different arenas in disclaimer two above. As you move towards the corners of the arenas to the end zones, prices may fluctuate differently in different buildings. The rankings below may be completely different when you look at that data. I didn't. I just skipped it. Ordinarily, I wouldn't do this, since I consider my tickets to be in the corner; the Wizards, however, don't so I'm paying center court prices for corner tickets. Sorry, that was a complaint.

On to the results? Well, not quite yet.

Below is a list of the prices for back row upper deck tickets for 20 of the 30 NBA teams. Why only 20? Because I couldn't find pricing easily for 10 of the teams. Following that, there is a list of the prices for front row upper deck tickets for 18 of the 30 NBA teams. What happened to the two other teams from one list to the other, you may ask? Well, Houston prices their tickets "starting at" but doesn't give a upper range and Phoenix only shows prices for available seats, and there are no seats available at the front of center court in their arena. The Suns sold all those out.

And what about the other 10 teams? Well, four teams (Boston, Golden State, the Lakers and Toronto) have wait lists and just haven't published their prices. Chicago also has a wait list but they published their prices. Of the other six, two (Cleveland and Indiana) want you to make an inquiry (I didn't, or more accurately chose not to, have time to wait for that) and one (Oklahoma City) just doesn't give any information at all (I'm kind of assuming there's a wait list here too).

The other three are the Atlanta Hawks, the New York Knicks and the Philadelphia 76ers. Philly, like Phoenix, only shows pricing for seats that are available and it appears the entire upper deck where season tickets are available are sold out. If you want Knicks tickets, it appears there may be some but the team wants a $250 per seat nonrefundable deposit. If they have seats, they'll let you decide if you want to buy them when they tell you where they are. Don't like the location? The team keeps your $250. Finally, I just got a black screen when I clicked on the Hawks' link for season tickets, which somehow seems perfect for that franchise.

I'm taking this page to mean that the Sixers' upper deck tickets are all gone.
So, with all that said, here are the prices for the last row in the upper deck of 20 of the 30 NBA franchises, with most expensive listed first.
  1. Chicago Bulls: $70 per game.
  2. Sacramento Kings: $1,806 per season.
  3. Miami Heat: $40 per game.
  4. Brooklyn Nets: $35 per game.
  5. Portland Trail Blazers: $33.60 per game.
  6. Houston Rockets: $1,364 per season.
  7. Detroit Pistons: $1,320 per season.
  8. Milwaukee Bucks: $29 per game.
  9. San Antonio Spurs: $28 per game.
  10. Washington Wizards: $28 per game / $1,190 per season.
  11. Phoenix Suns: $1,177 per game.
  12. Orlando Magic: $1,099 per season.
  13. Minnesota Timberwolves: $1,008 per season.
  14. Los Angeles Clippers: $968 per season.
  15. Denver Nuggets: $22 per game.
  16. Dallas Mavericks: $766 per season.
  17. Utah Jazz: $18 per game.
  18. New Orleans Pelicans: $750 per season.
  19. Charlotte Hornets: $14 per game.
  20. Memphis Grizzlies: $11 per game.
The Wizards are listed 10th on the list above. They are actually tied for 9th with the San Antonio Spurs, which is amazing to me that possibly equivalent seats between the most consistently successful franchise in the NBA over the past two decades can cost the same as they do for a Wizards season ticket holder. Three years ago, I put the Wizards 24th out of 25 teams in a similar study of season tickets with decidedly different parameters. While it's clear the cost of Wizards tickets have risen relative to the rest of the NBA, I'm not sure they are that out of line with other cities.

Some other things that stick out here. The cost of tickets in Chicago are insane; I can't imagine paying $70 a game for upper deck last row tickets. And they are all sold. Sacramento's tickets are equally surprising, although almost $30 per game less than in Chicago. I actually went back to Sacto's website to check my numbers were correct and they are. The only thing I can think here is only game in town and new building. Finally, if I'm in Memphis, how do I not have season tickets. $11 a game? Seriously? Charlotte too at $14, particularly if it gets me any shot at the All-Star Weekend activities next year. I'm not sure it does by the way.

As far as the Wizards place goes vs. the rest of the league, they are right in the middle of things. There's little variation in price between 14 (the Clippers) and 6 (the Rockets). Some teams list price per seat; others list price per season. Depending on the number of preseason and overseas neutral site games (read: Mexico City and London), positions may switch just a bit. But overall, this list shows Wizards tickets in the last row of the upper deck center court are not overpriced, especially considering Washington has to be in the upper half of cost of living and what I'm assuming are some of the most expensive tickets (Boston, Golden State, New York and Toronto) are not even on the list.

Had to double check but indeed, Sacramento Kings tickets are really expensive.
So what about the front row in those same sections? Well, here's that list. Remember I dropped two from the list.
  1. Chicago Bulls: $80 per game.
  2. Sacramento Kings: $3,096 per season.
  3. Brooklyn Nets: $72 per game.
  4. Portland Trail Blazers: $68.40 per game.
  5. San Antonio Spurs: $68 per game.
  6. Miami Heat: $55 per game.
  7. Milwaukee Bucks: $53 per game.
  8. Los Angeles Clippers: $2,275 per season.
  9. New Orleans Pelicans: $2,100 per season.
  10. Minnesota Timberwolves: 1,932 per season.
  11. Denver Nuggets: $43 per game.
  12. Charlotte Hornets: $42 per game.
  13. Dallas Mavericks: $1,770 per season.
  14. Detroit Pistons: $1,760 per season.
  15. Washington Wizards: $40 per game / $1,700 per season.
  16. Orlando Magic: $1,699 per season.
  17. Utah Jazz: $34 per game.
  18. Memphis Grizzlies: $31.50 per game.
Some notes here. First, San Antonio tickets are way more valuable in the front of the upper deck than they are at the back. Justifiably so, I think. Four titles in the last 20 years and the only major sports team in town I think let's you do whatever you want. Second, I'm still buying tickets if I'm in Memphis and also Utah on the basis of this list. Probably more so in Utah considering the team's play this year but on a city basis, I'm picking Memphis. Finally, I still can't believe the price of tickets in Sacramento. Who buys these things? Although, let's be honest, I likely would if I lived there.

Now, it seems like the Wizards tickets in the front row of the upper deck are priced near the bottom of the league. That's not really true. I'd consider the price of tickets from spot number 9 (the Pelicans) to spot number 16 (the Magic) to be pretty much the same. Heck, if Orlando charged $100 more for an entire season, they'd jump up four spots. The Pelicans tickets are going to go up on April 12 by the way; early bird pricing ends on 4/11. My conclusion about these tickets for the Wizards are the same as the back row: these tickets are not overpriced relative to the rest of the NBA.

All that's not to say that Wizards tickets aren't too expensive. I still think they are. All this is also not to pick on the tweet I saw this morning. I think in spirit, I am right in line with the thinking that I saw on Twitter. The one thing that I'll say about all this though is that more price hikes by the Wizards in coming seasons the likes of what we've seen over the past couple will put the cost for season ticket holders higher than other arenas in a hurry. They'll be priced like tickets for teams in New York or teams that sell out at least half their games in every season or teams that have won championships recently. The Wizards for sure aren't any of those.

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