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Posted at 02:38 PM ET, 01/12/2012

Leonsis on Wizards ticket prices


(JASON REED - REUTERS)
There are few guarantees in life, but one goes something like this: if I write a blog post about the demand for Wizards and/or Caps tickets and/or those teams’s ticket prices, Ted Leonsis will respond in-kind.

And so, on Wednesday, I published an item about fans buying 30-cent seats for the Wizards-Raptors game on the secondary market. On Thursday, Leonsis responded. His response is worth quoting.

Some season ticket holder or someone who had bought tickets or were given tickets by a friend sold their tickets rather than giving them to other friends or to a charity – for 30 cents. Very clever. And to add to the experience – they wrote funny ad copy – and it turns into a negative news story with photos. I understand the process. 
This work though devalues the perception of everyone’s ticket – including theirs – it doesn’t mention that some people pay $2500 per ticket per game. Or $ 900 per game. Or that we have sold most of our expensive VIP tickets downstairs. 

As I have noted – Verizon Center seats 20,000 people for basketball. We now have sold 8000 season tickets – and with suites and club seats – as noted – we basically fill half the arena on a game by game basis. We must sell 2000 to 3000 group sales tickets per game; and then try to sell walk up tickets. When the team isn’t performing well; or we aren’t playing a popular team – which I refuse to promote as you all know; walk up ticket sales are quite difficult to sell . This is our true reality – we have been very transparent – much more transparent than most online sites about traffic or revenues or growth or the ability to charge a fee or subscription for their work.

Aside from the filler about online sites and their traffic, and the occasional asides about the decline of the newspaper industry — which is true but sort of irrelevant to the debate — I don’t disagree with Leonsis at all.

He has steadfastly refused to promote opposing teams or stars. He has been transparent about the number of seats and packages sold, far more transparent than other local franchises, which refuse to answer such questions. And he — accurately — references the hockey example, when low attendance had WaPo staffers positing that the Caps were below D.C. United in the local pecking order, and ESPN.com staffers suggesting contraction.

This comment from my blog is the truth:

Way back in the day I used to go to Caps games for $5/ticket. There was a section in the upper-level called the “Eagle’s Nest,” and on Wednesdays the seats were way cheap. Who wanted to watch those bums, the Caps? They were awful!  That was a long, long time ago, by which I mean it was 7 years ago, in 2005.  

Then there is the oft-cited Thomas Boswell column, which Boswell himself cited in 2009:

In March ‘04, I began a column: “If Ted Leonsis can dump all the salaries he doesn't want to pay, then where can his customers dump all the Capitals tickets that they no longer want? On Leonsis's front lawn?”
Three years later, even four years later, that column still looked sensible, if snide. Then, within a few months, those words looked wrong and, eventually, downright dumb. Leonsis,what a hockey genius! Ted has had fun citing that column as an example of shortsighted critics. No problem. He’s right.

(Of course, the story changed somewhat during Leonsis’s frequent retellings, like this one, from last February:

One critic once told Caps fans to take their season tickets, light them on fire and come to my home and throw them on my front lawn when we were in the midst of our rebuild. I have heard it all.

Or this:

We have come a long way since Tom encouraged our season ticket holders to come to my home and burn their tickets and throw them on my front lawn, huh?

The original didn’t mention fire, near as I can tell.)

(Of course, there were other choice Boswellian bits that Leonsis could mentioned instead. Like this:

In a few years, several teams will probably have been contracted out of existence. Leonsis’s Caps could well be one of them. League sources think that if the Caps complete their salary purge — trading Witt, Gonchar, Kolzig and perhaps Michael Nylander by the March 9 deadline — that the Caps' core fan base may be as low as 3,000 people by the time the NHL resumes play in ‘05.

That didn’t exactly happen.)

Anyhow, Leonsis wrote on Thursday that Wizards season-ticket sales are up 70 percent year to year, and that average profit for a re-sold Caps ticket Thursday night was $50, and that Caps fans now complain frequently about overpriced tickets and the season-ticket waiting list, and that “winning cures all” and D.C. fans “will support us big time when we deserve it .” All of which is true.

Point being, I believe newspapers and bloggers should take note when seats are available for 30 cents per, and I also believe owners should offer long explanations of what is happening and why while not allowing criticism to change their approach, and I believe we can all still be friends and drive traffic and pixels and happiness in all directions.

Thank you.

By  |  02:38 PM ET, 01/12/2012

Categories:  Wizards, Wizards

 
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