Next season, San Francisco Giants fans buying single-game tickets for an April game against Milwaukee might pay half as much as they would for a weekend game with the rival Los Angeles Dodgers later in the year.
The club is trying something new with ticket sales in a few tough-to-sell upper-deck outfield sections of its waterfront ballpark for 2009: cost based on demand.
The walk-up sales price for up to about 2,000 seats could even go up or down on game day. The change would be minimal, say somewhere between 25 cents and $2.
Team president Larry Baer calls it "dynamic pricing" and figures it might just become the way of the future for professional sports franchises. The Giants have partnered with a software company that will make it possible to quickly change the ticket prices based on the popularity of a given game - not to mention weather, a possible milestone or a player from a visiting team who brings extra interest.
"We're going to experiment with this a little bit in a few sections of the park," Baer said. "What this really is, is the ticket business is changing dramatically and quickly. There's a chance we might wake up 10 years from now and tickets will be priced according to demand, like the airlines."
Baer said, for example, fans might spend $25 to see the Giants host a team like the Dodgers in August or perhaps even the always-popular Chicago Cubs in September, but might only charge $8 for the same seats in April when the Brewers come to the Bay Area.
The team plans to accept feedback from the fan base on how the process is working before determining whether to go forward with the same or a similar approach in 2010. The Giants - minus the hype surrounding Barry Bonds and the All-Star game they hosted in 2007 - failed to reach 3 million in home attendance last season for the first time at their 9-year-old waterfront ballpark. It certainly didn't help the team played so poorly at home.
"We're talking hundreds of seats, not thousands of seats," Baer said. "We'll see how it works and how the fans like it. This would be a first. We have innovative people in our ticket office."
Baer vowed after the 2008 season ended not to increase ticket prices, especially considering the economic challenges. He said for the most part the team's prices will be flat for next year. Four or five categories will be stay the same, while two or three will go down and one section has gone up slightly.
For 2009 individual ticket sales, 50 percent of prices were reduced, 38 percent remained the same and 12 percent were increased. Of season tickets, 55 percent were either reduced or stayed the same and the other 45 percent had what Baer called "minor contractual increases." One section is up $2, he said.
Still, someone who shows up expecting to pay $10 to see a game could wind up spending a little bit more - or less. The Giants also have worked on promotions that drop the ticket price based on the number of strikeouts a starting pitcher records or even deals at the concession stands.
"In sports, entertainment and theater, some tickets are on demand," Baer said. "This might be the way of the future."