YOU WILL not find any group of baseball fans more committed to the idea of a local minor league team than the three of us. So the questions we pose here are out of a true desire to see the Fredericksburg Baseball Club succeed in every possible way.
When it was first announced that Fredericksburg was on board to secure a Single A franchise of the Washington Nationals, we were ecstatic, to say the least. And since that first day, we have waited with great anticipation as each milestone towards the opening of the 2020 baseball season has been achieved.
We were more than willing to give the team our full support.
With this in mind, we cannot describe how disappointed we’ve become since we received our Founders Club Season Ticket Selection packet. We were immediately struck by the incredibly high pricing structure that was offered.
However, before reacting in a careless manner, we decided to do a little research before meeting with our ticket representative to discuss our options.
We examined the season and single-game pricing of nine random Single A Major League Baseball franchises throughout the country, plus the AA Richmond franchise. Ticket prices were compared “apples to apples.” In other words, we compared the price of our box seat to the price of every other team’s comparable box seat, as well as to less expensive seats in another part of the stadium.
The results were eye-opening. With the exception of only one team (the San Jose Giants), the Fredericksburg team prices were higher in every category. This one instance can easily be explained: The annual median income in San Jose is $83,400, while it’s $49,454 in Fredericksburg.
Even the AA franchise in Richmond—which offers a much higher level of baseball—had lower prices. They play in a league filled with many players who will be called up to MLB within one or two years, if not sooner.
Secondly, with the exception of only the Potomac Nationals (soon to be our team), every other team offered a discount to purchase season tickets. One was as high as a 40 percent discount, but most averaged at least 20 percent.
That makes sense for a couple of reasons. Why shell out money well in advance of the season if you can pay the exact same price on the day of the game?
Also, most—if not all—of your season ticket holders will miss quite a few games due to weather, scheduling conflicts and the like, so it makes sense to offer them some sort of a price break if they are going to commit to all 70 games.
Bear in mind that season tickets are the lifeblood of any sports franchise. Without that kind of continued and sustained support, a team cannot survive financially. Yet unlike any other team, Fredericksburg wants our fans to pay full price—which, based on a 70-game season, comes out to $19 per game for Diamond Box seats ($1,330 per year).
We were even more shocked to find that these season ticket packages required a three-year contract. No team, including our own Washington Nationals, gets away with that kind of a demand.
The team rationale here is to protect fans from any ticket price increases by guaranteeing their price for three years. (God help us if prices were to go up even higher in the near future!)
When we finally got around to speaking with a ticket representative, the response boiled down to this: Markets are very different in different parts of the country, and therefore you really can’t compare what is going on in Pennsylvania or Ohio to what we have here in Fredericksburg.
We understand that, and agree with that position—to a point. We also understand that our brand new stadium should be superior to most, if not all, of the current Single A teams nationwide.
But facilities can only take you so far, and surely one would think there would be a few teams with prices higher or comparable to ours, no matter where they are located.
At some point it comes down to the quality and cost of the baseball product you are offering versus other ways a person/family can spend their limited disposable dollars.
In 2015, the average ticket price to a Single A game across the nation was $8.60 (per MILB.com). We could not find the figure for this year, but if we allow for a huge inflationary increase and raise that to a hypothetical average of $9.50 for 2019, you are still left with the fact that we won’t even have one ticket at that price in our entire stadium here in Fredericksburg—our least expensive ticket being $12.
And bear in mind that we have not even explored what the additional cost of parking and concessions will be. Suddenly, the idea of an “affordable night out at the ballpark” is becoming just a myth.
The success of our baseball club here in Fredericksburg will depend on sustained and loyal fan support. It will not financially succeed without a very strong group of season ticket holders, as well as a much larger group of loyal fans who will attend anywhere from five to 10 games annually.
Currently, we are left with the impression that the team owners are trying to take advantage of the incredible amount of goodwill and excitement the new team has generated. If so, that is very short-sighted for long-term success.
Or do they plan to build the support on the back of corporate or business sponsors? That, too, will only take you so far.
Either way, the many loyal fans like the three of us are likely to attend just a handful of games each year when under more favorable circumstances, we would be season ticket buyers.
When the cost differences are this significant, there has to be something that we are missing. Please give us some good, solid answers to the questions presented here so that we can once again join the bandwagon.
We very much want to be part of the team!