Wikipedia defines "price gouging" as when "a seller’s asking price [is] much higher than what is seen as ‘fair’ under the circumstances". Over the weekend we had dinner with a good friend, a season ticket holder at Yankee Stadium whose family has held their seats for decades and decades. Their seats, incredibly proximate to the field and the Yankee dugout, have, over the years, been increasingly moved further from the magical "front row" — the team has added additional photographers’ pits and supplemental club seats in front of their own. Despite being somewhat devalued in this manner, the prices for these seats have understandably continued to rise (over 40% last year, from $150 per chair to $220 a seat). It was to great surprise (and eventual frustration and unbridled anger) that, in the course of being "relocated" to new Yankee Stadium my friends’ "equivalent seats" were moved back and away from their present location. This is par for the course when new arenas or stadia are built — when the Fleet Center first opened my Dad’s Bruins seats, perhaps the best in the house, were magically transformed into much more expensive mediocrities despite being called "equivalent" to his prior seats. My father no longer has season tickets to the Bruins. And at Fenway Park my family’s seats (in our clan for over 60 years) are now an outrageous $90 a game — two seats at $180/pair translates to nearly $15K per season for the privilege (and at this point it’s a MAJOR privilege) of heading to Fenway. For the record, the most expensive seats at the Fens are the front row of the field box; these cost $325, a seemingly ridiculous amount to spend to go see a baseball game up close (Fenway price chart here).
But the Yankees are using their move to take this expected shift in price and location to a new level, and this is what my friend, perhaps one of the most diehard Yankee fans I have ever known, is so angry about. The seats equivalent to his prior location that my friend now has the "right" to purchase will cost either $600 or $850 a game, depending on his final choice (the above chart — click on it for greater detail — shows the pricing for this inner circle of seats). And even more startling (and, to some perhaps, offensive) are the prices of the seats in the front row behind the dugouts and adjacent to them: $2500 a game. A season ticket therefore cracks $200K. The cheapest seat in this "Legends Suite" (encompassing the entire mass of the lower box from foul pole to foul pole) is $500, nearly 40% more than the most expensive seat in Fenway, for comparison. The Yankees have outdone themselves here considering their already formidable wealth, their revenue stream from YES, and their generally spectacular level of popularity that would have insured a relatively full stadium even at reasonably increased prices. Their dedicated fans should be outraged – God only knows what the "cheap seats" will eventually cost.
Heaven forbid the Red Sox should ever leave Fenway and build a new park, fans will be singing the same tune up in Beantown. [ED: if they aren't already...]
[Update: I neglected to include the fact that my friend was also asked to re-up to these new seats for a 10 year commitment with yearly escalations in price. So the math is: 4x$220 = $880 per game x 81 games = $71K for current seats vs. 4x$850 = $3400/game x 81 games = $275K per season x 10 seasons plus an approximate 3% escalation per year = $3.15M commitment upfront to retain his season tickets. So, an annual commitment of $71K goes to an upfront commitment of $3M+, to a family that has had season tickets for nearly a century, if my math is correct. This is, even to those with means, a ridiculous demand]