Breaking down the Wizards' season-ticket price increases

Rob Carr

Today, Monumental Sports started selling 2014-2015 season tickets for the Washington Wizards. Prices have been raised in most locations and kept flat in some others. We break the changes down and wonder whether it was too much too soon.

Yup, the day that season ticket holders were anxiously waiting for has finally arrived. And since I've been a full season ticket holder myself since the 2008-09 NBA season, I've been anxiously waiting with you.

Unfortunately, most of us will be paying more money to stay in our seats to root for the Wizards next year. This comes after a period of six years, or since the 2007-08 season when prices were frozen or slashed, including a three year price freeze from the 2011-12 through the 2013-14 NBA seasons.

Still, many season ticket holders are pissed, to say the least. One of our community members, Apacheforever, wrote a petition asking that prices should not go up for next year, but today, he wrote an open letter to the team that the price increases are unacceptable. In addition, DavidDunn, another member of the community, had this to say on Twitter:

We shouldn't be too surprised about a price increase, though. Sublime1983 attended a focus group for Wizards season ticket holders this past January. He then said in the comments of Apacheforever's petition that price increases were being considered and were discussed in that meeting.  I'll post his entire comment below:

I spoke with the Director of Ticket Analytics as he was the facilitator to our focus group on Wednesday. I was there early so got to pick his brain on a bunch of things. He said that they are evaluating price increases and with the Big Data company they are consulting with, they are considering increasing the price of some seats while potentially lowering others (also, some porridge may be just right).

A lot of the feedback they are getting from fans is that the excitement for the team still isn’t there. The product doesn’t warrant a price hike. This team making a playoff "run" is a farce. The feeling I gathered is that if they can find the right price point where it doesn’t significantly decrease STH (season ticket holder) sales, but increases the per game value of the ticket, then they will take it. If sales from STH, dollar wise, is the same as this year, they will be very happy and they will make that move. With this being a business, I couldn’t fault them for making it, either.

In our room, pretty much every STH said they would not renew if the price went up a noticeable amount. Right now, the rafters have a lot of sold seats because the price is right. They need to be cognizant of the type of STH that sits in the 400s right now. A lower level holder is likely to weather an increase much more than someone getting leaked on.

I will say that they asked one of the focus group members if their $9 seats getting bumped up to $16 would be too much. The answer was emphatically "yes". We will see.

So now, let's talk about the price increases. The prices of 2013-2014 Wizards season tickets can be seen by clicking here. Now, click here for season ticket prices for the 2014-2015 season, which will be the same for both renewing and new customers after talking to my guest services representative.

Price Highlights in a Nutshell

Please note that all prices listed are for each single seat.

1. The $399, or $9.50/game season tickets, are no more. They are now $16/game.

These seats are located behind the baskets in the back rows of the 400 sections. The prices of these seats have nearly doubled, and it could price some customers out of their seats. This corroborates with sublime1983's point.

I've eyeballed StubHub and see that those seats also don't sell for even $10/game much of the time, so I really don't think this particular price increase makes any sense.

2. Center court 400 level seating is now $20/game, up from $16/game last year.

These seats provide the best views in this level, so it is not surprising to see that if 400 level pricing went up, these seats would go up in price.

3. Most seats in the 100 and 200 level which experienced price changes did not see those prices go up by more than $10/game from last year's pricing.

Most 100 level $31/game seats in the 2013-2014 NBA season have gone up to $35/game for the 2014-2015 season. $50/game seats went up to $55/game. None of the "Center Select" seats experienced price increases of above $10/game from their 2013-2014 levels.

4. Most VIP seating locations have higher prices, some considerably. Some other seats also have kept prices flat.

I noticed that prices in Box West and East, Row CCC went up from $137/game in 2013-2014 to $175/game for 2014-2015. That is a whopping 27.7% increase. Wow. Just wow.

Also there is a section of seats in Row AAA that were going for $375/game this season. Next year, they are $550/game. That is a 46.67% increase. Sure, these seats are a lot of money as is, but you don't want to price out people in those seats either.

Most other VIP seat locations did not go up by over 10 percent from the 2013-2014 season. In fact, some seats have stayed at the same price at $175/game, which are Sections 102, 109, 113, and 120, rows BB and CC. But still, we've seen price increases in the majority of seats.

5. Some 100 level and 400 level seats have remained at the $31/game and $16/game price points.

It is not fair to just say that Monumental Sports increased prices everywhere. Some of the seats at the 100 and 400 level will remain at the same price, mostly in areas which were not in very high demand last year.

My take on season ticket prices

I don't like the price increase, even though I'm tolerant of one.

What worries me is that this price increase comes at a time when the Wizards are still under .500 and will probably finish at around that mark, give or take a couple games above or below that. Furthermore, the D.C. area still isn't really too enthusiastic about the Wizards at this time. We still see many road team fans in the Verizon Center, especially when the Wizards are playing a team like the Miami Heat. Lastly, if the Wizards have a bad 2014-2015 season, this price increase could backfire badly, if not sooner.

If Monumental Sports still really wanted to raise prices, I think they should have let renewing season ticket holders renew at their 2013-2014 season ticket holder rate, and then charge a different rate for new members. The Caps already do a form of this by charging renewing customers one rate and new holders another. Click here on renewal prices for the 2014-2015 NHL season, and click here on the prices for new season ticket holders.

Ultimately, I want to see sellouts at Verizon Center for Wizards games like we have seen with the Capitals, and I want to see a large season ticket holder base night rooting for the home team night in and night out. I just hope that this price increase, even if it isn't that large generally speaking, will not be a roadblock towards doing that.

Do you think that Monumental Sports should have raised Wizards season ticket prices for the 2014-2015 NBA season? What questions or concerns do you have on it? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

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