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Will attendance drop with higher ticket prices for IronPigs?

The cost to enter Coca-Cola Park during the 2012 baseball season is slated to rise as much as 17%.
The cost to enter Coca-Cola Park during the 2012 baseball season is slated to rise as much as 17%.
Stephen Gross

Many agree the economy is in a double dip recession and, according to the most recently reported data, the unemployment rate in the Lehigh Valley rose to 8.7 percent in June. The Morning Call's Spencer Soper also just reported last week that "the buying power of the average Lehigh Valley resident dropped in 2010 for the third straight year," and with inflation factored in, personal incomes dropped more than $600, yet the IronPigs felt this was the perfect time to announce a raise in ticket prices for the 2012 season.

Club level seats now will cost $15, field level seats will go up to $10 and general admission tickets will be $7.

Some might say it is only a $1 increase, but let’s look at it a different way. Club level seats went up 7%, field level seats 11%, and general admission tickets rose a whopping 17%. Those increases are mighty high considering many businesses and families are cutting back in these tough times.

Sure, the IronPigs are allowing fans to lock in the current price rate while being guaranteed giveaways (something that many believe should be done regardless) if they purchase a 5-year plan, but for a family of four renewing a field level plan, that’s asking them to commit $12,960 just to keep their ticket prices the same. If that same family of four chooses to pay year by year, not wanting to commit long-term because of their unknown financial status due to the current economic climate, they will now owe an extra $288 a year ($1,440 for the duration of those 5 years), assuming there are no more increases.

IronPigs general manager Kurt Landes cited rising food, administrative and health care costs as part of the reason for the change in ticket prices but it’s hard to believe the ‘Pigs aren’t raising enough money by charging $5.50 for a beer and $3 for a bottle of water. They even have a ban on outside food and drink, forcing fans to even buy water if they get thirsty on those hot summer days. If they really needed the extra cash to cover their costs would they be offering fans the opportunity to stay at the same price if they renew a ticket plan for three or five years?

You may think that Coca-Cola Park employees will benefit from this increase, since Landes was quick to mention health care costs, but that doesn’t seem to be the case for all workers. Hourly wage workers for the IronPigs, speaking anonymously, have stated that as far as they know, their wages will not increase for the 2012 season. In fact, in the four years the IronPigs have called the Lehigh Valley home, these workers have only received one twenty-five cent raise during the team’s second season. It is very likely that the only reason the raise was given was due to the fact that the federal minimum wage was raised just past what workers were making during the 2009 season.

Last season, Coca-Cola Park averaged a minor league leading 9,227 fans per home game. Not only would a $1 increase mean an extra $9,227 per home game in revenue, but could translate to an extra $664,344 in profits over the course of the year if attendance numbers are similar to the 2010 season.

Is it a coincidence that one of the most successful franchises in the minors, attendance-wise, over the past few years has also had some of the cheapest ticket prices? I think not.

Despite not posting a winning-season until this year, the IronPigs were able to post the best attendance numbers in the minors over the past two seasons. Low ticket prices and family friendly entertainment have led to their success, but will stagnant wages for workers and higher prices for families drive down ticket sales and end the IronPigs’ reign atop the attendance charts? Only time will tell.

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