Cubs To Institute Dynamic Pricing System In Bleachers

A fan sits in the right field bleachers before a game between the Chicago Cubs and the Philadelphia Phillies at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illlinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

We've heard rumors about this since last September, and although there's no official link on the Cubs website about this yet, Ed Sherman of Crain's writes that the Cubs are going to have dynamically priced ticketing in the bleachers this season:

After years of being out-hustled by secondary ticket brokers, which flip high-demand seats for huge profit, the North Siders are stealing a page from their South Side rival's playbook and implementing "dynamic pricing" in their 5,000 bleacher seats this season.

"Teams are looking at (dynamic pricing) to capture some of that secondary market that they're not capturing," says Colin Faulkner, the Cubs' vice president of ticket sales and service, who implemented the new system when he worked for the NHL's Dallas Stars before moving to Wrigley Field in 2010. Mr. Faulkner says the dynamic pricing will supplement a tiered system in the bleachers, where initial costs range from $17 to $78 apiece.

Why this is a good idea for everyone, after the jump.

The article points out that the White Sox have used a system like this for a couple of years, and other baseball teams, including the Giants, have also used it to great success. Sherman writes that both the Cubs (through selling tickets that would have otherwise gone unsold) and the city (through getting extra amusement tax through those ticket sales) will make money.

I'm not convinced that the Cubs will make as much money (by presumably taking sales away from brokers) as this sentence says:

Expanding that model to the entire ballpark could mean recouping as much as $11 million a year from resellers.

But, it will be a useful experiment to see if the Cubs can sell some tickets that otherwise would not have sold. I was told at a season ticket holder lunch last September, and this was repeated at the Cubs convention, that at no time would dynamic pricing go below the season ticket holder price -- which, for the first time this year, is below the single-game price.

STH prices are $2 below single-game prices for 60 of the 81 games, all but the "gold" level games; the "gold" games are $1 less for STH.

This is a much fairer system than last year, when after STH paid full price, the Cubs knocked 50% off of all games in April and May -- 33 dates, nearly half the schedule. They are still trying to sell games in the six-packs and nine-packs; if anyone here has bought any of those, please post in the comments. It doesn't appear to me that those are selling quickly. The Cubs, in the last two years, have also had a premium-price presale before the first day of single-game sales; they have yet to announce whether they'll do that again.

Will it cut off the secondary market? Maybe, if the pricing is attractive, for specific games. But some of the more popular dates -- Cardinals, Red Sox, etc. -- already have bleacher tickets face-valued at $86. It'll be hard to make much more money than that, unless the Cubs suddenly have an unexpected winning season.

Single-game sales start on March 9. It will be very interesting to see how sales go that first day. My guess: it'll be slow, maybe even slower than a year ago.

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