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Tuesday, Feb 7, 2023
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Padres Tickets Not a Big Hit Anymore

Despite an 11 percent decline in 2008 season ticket sales as of last week, executives for the San Diego Padres aren’t panicking about meeting their sales goals.

“This is our busiest time of the year, the couple of weeks leading up to Opening Day (on March 31),” said Jeff Overton, the Padres’ executive vice president of business services. “We fully expect to be over 16,000 (season) tickets sold by year’s end.”

At the end of 2007, the Padres had the equivalent of 16,515 season ticket holders. The number includes partial season ticket packages that add up to 81 home games in addition to full season tickets. As of March 18, the number of full season equivalent seats sold for 2008 was 14,720.

“There is no doubt the economy is affecting everybody, including us,” Overton said. “This year, the economy has been the biggest reason cited by our ticket holders (for not renewing), which includes both individuals and companies.”

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Yet he also says that season ticket renewals are still strong, running about 85 percent (the same rate as last year), which means 15 percent aren’t renewing.


New Deals

Realizing that tickets weren’t moving well, the Padres have introduced a few incentives to spur sales.

Among the new strategies are a 13-game ticket package called the flex plan, where fans can choose any seven weekend and six weekday games at a discount of up to 19 percent. Depending on the location of the seat, prices range from $169, or $13 per ticket, to $494, for a $38 average per game.

To boost sales in the usually sparsely sold right field Toyota Terrace level, the team has introduced a “bases loaded ticket,” giving buyers $20 worth of food or merchandise with their $45 ticket, essentially discounting the ducat by 44 percent.

“What this is all about is giving our customers variety and the ability to select from a variety of new products,” Overton said.

The team did raise ticket prices this year, but Overton says that the increase on tickets purchased before the day of the game was only $1 in 10 of 14 categories, and $2 in three other categories. The price for the Park at the Park pass, which allows fans to sit on the grass behind the seating area, is still $5.

The team says season ticket holders and buyers of advance sale single game tickets before April 1 would pay 2007 prices.

Despite raising ticket prices in 2007, and establishing an advance sale price that is a few bucks below day of game ticket prices, the Padres did well at the gate last year, finishing the season at 2.79 million, third best in the team’s 39-year history. The number put the Padres in 13th place among the 30 major league teams.


A Winning Strategy

For many companies, the considerable cost of season tickets at Petco Park is well worth it.

“It’s cheap in a sense,” said A.J. Pappas, owner of Liberty Leisure Associates, a hospitality industry consultant, about his $17,000 package, which includes four seats behind home plate and two premium parking passes for each game.

“To be able to have four to five months of entertaining clients or family in this type of setting is definitely a good value. If you’re taking out a couple of clients, it will cost you a lot more for dinner.”

John Frager, chief executive officer of Grubb & Ellis/BRE Commercial, a commercial real estate brokerage firm, says the suite on the Toyota Terrace level has been a valuable strategy for building relationships with clients. “We have over 100 brokers and they’re all adept at leveraging the suite in different ways.”

Frager estimates the cost at $3,000 per game.

Overton says after season tickets, the biggest drivers to the team’s overall attendance are group sales and single game ticket sales. In recent years, the former has had a bigger impact, with more groups holding company events at designated party areas such as the Western Metal Supply Co. Building or at a left field picnic terrace.

Fans attending these events aren’t necessarily coming to Petco Park to watch a baseball game, but to interact with co-workers or other members of their organization, Overton says.

The formula for filling seats in Petco Park, which opened in 2004, is constantly being evaluated and changed as the team continues to figure out what strategies work best, he says.

“We’re still learning about this ballpark, and the fans’ use of the ballpark, and trying to adapt on an annual basis and react to what their needs are,” he said.

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