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'Dynamic Pricing' May Be To Blame For Empty Seats At Kauffman Stadium


After stagnating for a month in the American League Central standings, the Royals have taken off in the last two weeks. But when the last homestand concluded with two of the Royals’ most traditional draws, their attendance didn’t take off as they hoped.

New York Yankee fan Mo Moffitt, recently moved to Shawnee, Kan., from The Bronx, found a way to attend a Yankees game in Kansas City.

“If you’re a diehard to your team, you’ll show up,” said Moffitt a Royals home game.

But plenty of diehard fans during the most recent homestand did not.

The St. Louis Cardinals last week drew less than 30,000 in each of their games at Kauffman Stadium. That hasn’t happened since 2007.

For Tuesday’s game against the Cleveland Indians, the 25,000-plus attendees exceeded two of the three games against the Yankees.

Royals Director of Ticket Sales Steve Shiffman closely tracks those numbers.

“Attendance is a big factor,” says Shiffman. “In Major League Baseball, they judge you by attendance and they also judge you by revenues."

And more revenues are created by variable ticket pricing or, as the Royals call it, “dynamic pricing," which is underway for the second year. Seldom in the present day are two games priced alike.

"You can look at obviously the opponent, the day of the week and then really when it gets down to it the pitching matchup,” says Shiffman. “If Detroit was coming on a Friday night and (Justin) Verlander was pitching, that might create a lot more excitement and more demand. All of a sudden, the algorithms and the dynamic pricing would say you should be charging higher pricing for this ticket, in this section, for this night.”

Twenty-seven of the 30 teams in Major League Baseball have transitioned to variable ticket pricing for single game tickets. The Kansas City Chiefs announced last month they’re heading in that direction, too.

Changing the dynamics in the world of sporting event ticket sales is what teams call the "secondary market." In other words: ticket brokers.

Jeff Goodman is one of them. He’s the CEO of Goody Tickets in Overland Park.

“Candidly the concept of dynamic pricing is what the market will bear, which is really what the secondary market is,” says Goodman.

In Goodman’s opinion, the Royals misread what the market would bear for the Cardinals and Yankees.

“The pricing structure was just clearly off a little bit for the attendance,” said Goodman.

As a result, for a national telecast, viewers around the country saw empty seats at Kauffman Stadium on Saturday night against the Yankees. Of all the games in Major League Baseball that day, only the Tampa Bay Rays drew fewer fans than the Royals. The Royals played for a crowd of less than 27,000 at a stadium that seats almost 38,000.

If the Royals continue their upward climb, Shiffman hopes the demand for tickets will increase.

“I think winning is the cure of all evils as people would say,” says Shiffman. “If you win, people would come out and support you.”

But dynamic pricing also works the other way. If the Royals fall out of contention, chances are in September you can get a heckuva deal on a cheaper ticket. It could change just a few days before the game.

Sports have an economic and social impact on our community and, as a sports reporter, I go beyond the scores and statistics. I also bring the human element to the sports figures who have a hand in shaping the future of not only their respective teams but our town. Reach me at gregechlin@aol.com.
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