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Flexible Ticket Pricing Now Twins Way

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May 9, 2019

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The Minnesota Twins offered the deepest single game discount on tickets this week that sources could recall.

Tuesday the club offered thousands of outfield seats for each of the 12 remaining home games in May at a price of $5 per ticket, and by Wednesday afternoon the inventory was gone.  Then Wednesday night the organization did a second $5 flash sale for May offering entry to Target Field for games but not a designated seat, and now that inventory is also gone.  This afternoon a Twins news release said that 20,000 outfield seats were sold via the first sale and 12,000 ballpark access tickets in the second.

How fast the Twins sold out the $5 allotment speaks to its popularity. “In my memory, I don’t remember anything this deep affecting so many tickets for this long a time,” said WCCO Radio talk show host Dave Mona who has followed the Twins franchise since its inception in 1961. “They’ve still got a substantial part of May remaining. I think that they (Twins executives) looked at it and said, ‘We need to do something dramatic to get people into the ballpark,’ and this was pretty dramatic.”

It’s been a rough spring for weather but the Twins have been playing some of the best baseball in the majors and the organization’s marketers want to get fans to Target Field so they can sample the product. “…I am sure they are as perplexed as others at how much of the decline is weather related because it truly has been a terrible spring for baseball,” Mona said. “They’re hoping people come to the park, like what they see and come back even after the promotion ends.”

The Twins attracted less than two million customers to their games last season. That was the lowest head count since 2010 when they moved into their new home, Target Field. This spring empty seats have been everywhere at the downtown ballpark.

Team marketers are using flexible pricing to counteract attendance problems. For the last couple of years the club has sold an inexpensive spring ballpark pass, and this season the Twins offered ticket plans at $49, $99 and $149 per month that gets you into Target Field for all but two games, Opening Day and Joe Mauer Day. Single game buyers can purchase inexpensive tickets, and then at the game use apps on their phones to upgrade to a better and more expensive seat for minimal costs, paying something like $20 for a $50 seat.

Getting people to fill seats has benefits, even at drastically reduced pricing. Bargain paying customers may return later to Target Field for other games and some will buy more expensive tickets to improve their seating in the ballpark. Fans also purchase food, beverages and merchandise inside Target Field, contributing to franchise revenues.

“A sea of empty seats” is not the desired image to project to fans watching games at home on television, or to sponsors who have invested millions of dollars to be associated with Minnesota’s big league baseball club. A former front office executive in Major League Baseball likened the Twins’ attendance situation to the image of driving by a restaurant at 6 p.m. “If the parking lot is empty, it might not be a good place to eat,” he said about giving off the wrong impression.

There are many reasons for the Twins’ slide at the gate. The poor weather of the last couple of springs is a painful reminder for both the ballclub and the public of failed efforts years ago to build a new stadium with a retractable roof. Target Field is a terrific outdoor ball park but it offers no solution for rain, extreme cold and bad baseball. Since Target Field opened the Twins have had four seasons when the club lost more than 90 games. When teams lose their emotional ties with patrons, it can be difficult to get customers back in the ballpark.

The Twins sold 25,000 season tickets in the first season at Target Field but estimates now have that number at around 10,000. That means the club has the challenge of selling roughly 28,000 seats via group and single game tickets for each home date.

And there are 81 home dates to sell, more than any other major sport in America. That’s a lot of inventory for customers to commit to on a season ticket basis, or even partial season tickets. The commitment involves money, time and emotion. In a busy, even glutted marketplace, with so many sports and entertainment options, there is fierce competition in Minneapolis-St. Paul to command the attention of consumers.

Despite their 2019 success on the field, as of today the Twins ranked No. 23 in MLB attendance, averaging 16,843, per ESPN.com. (The small market Milwaukee Brewers with a retractable roof stadium are No. 8, averaging 33,079).

The Twins are not alone in their challenge to attract customers. Earlier this spring USA Today’s website reported 12 of the 30 Major League teams were down in attendance, with a 17 percent overall decline.

The length of games has for years been a common complaint among lukewarm fans. Typically games will take three to four hours. Add in time going to and from the ballpark, and that totals a lot of hours for customers—no matter the cost of tickets.

Gophers Baseball Notes

John Anderson

Spring weather often does the baseball Gophers no favors, either. John Anderson has led the program for 37 seasons. “The last two years have been really challenging (springs),” he said. “No question.”

During Minnesota’s Big Ten schedule poor weather has resulted in the Gophers having to play five unplanned doubleheaders in recent weeks. On Wednesday, the Gophers had to cancel a home nonconference game with Omaha because of rain.

The Gophers had to play their first 21 games on the road this season, with indoor U.S. Bank Stadium unavailable to them because of preparations to host the early April men’s basketball Final Four. The road dates, combined with bad spring weather, have cost the team a lot of practice time and slowed player development, resulting in a “crazy year,” Anderson said.

Minnesota, though, is 11-7 in Big Ten games (22-23 overall) and playing some of its best baseball of late. “We’re trending in the right direction,” Anderson said. “Our pitching has really improved, has been consistent and stable over the last three weeks or so.”

Anderson hopes the Gophers can excel in their last two Big Ten series of the season and then impress in the Big Ten Tournament that starts May 22. “If we’re going to make a run here at the end, it’s going to start there on the mound,” he said.

Anderson turns 64 on May 16 and has another year remaining on his contract. He plans to continue coaching for awhile if the University of Minnesota wants him beyond 2020. There shouldn’t be any doubt about that considering Anderson is a college baseball legend with over 1,300 career wins.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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