Wizards Increase Ticket Prices

By Thomas Heath
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Washington Wizards are increasing the price of nearly 1,000 choice seats in MCI Center by 59 percent for next season, a jump that has drawn criticism from some longtime fans who feel they are being priced out of their seats.

Lower-bowl seats in Rows A through G in the center three sections closest to half court -- about 1,000 "premier seats" -- will change from between $110 and $114 per seat this year to $175 per seat next year, according to season ticket holders who received their invoices over the last several days.

Matt Williams, a spokesman for Washington Sports & Entertainment, the Abe Pollin-led holding company that owns the majority of MCI Center and the Wizards, confirmed the new ticket prices but added that all of the tickets being increased represent only 15 percent of the arena's 20,173-seat capacity.

Rows H and up for the center three sections, about 1,200 seats, will increase from $110 this season to $120 next season, Williams confirmed. Prices for about 4,300 lower-bowl seats in the corners and behind the baskets will be reduced between $4 and $6 apiece, and prices for the rest in the arena will not change.

The VIP seats on the arena floor will increase as well, from $750 to $800 for the first three rows and from $400 to $420 for the others.

"We have evaluated our ticket prices and the ticket prices throughout the NBA and determined that the ticket prices in the center three sections, as well as our VIP ticket prices, need to increase to allow us to remain competitive in the league," Williams said. "At the same time, we have made a conscious effort to keep the majority of our lower level tickets at an affordable rate, including seats at $48 per game."

Williams said that with some exceptions, the new season ticket prices represent the first increase in three years. The Wizards said their average season ticket price is the 28th lowest among the NBA's 30 teams. Williams said 23 other NBA teams charge more for the premier seats than the Wizards currently charge.

Team Marketing Report, a firm that tracks the cost of attending professional league games, ranked the Wizards' average ticket price, which includes people who buy individual tickets on game nights, for the 2004-05 season at 10th highest in the league based on the team's figures from the 2003-04 season.

Michael Levy, who has been a Wizards season ticket holder for 18 years, said yesterday that he will not renew his tickets for next year.

"The Wizards basically took the MCI Center and targeted the 1,000 seats populated with the most loyal, long-term individual fans and targeted them for an outrageous price hike," said Levy, a D.C. attorney. "To treat long-term, loyal fans that way is unconscionable. These are people who stuck with the team through 18 seasons where they made the playoffs twice."

Michael Sanders, an attorney who lives in Potomac, has been a Wizards season ticket holder since the team moved from Baltimore more than 30 years ago.

"I am outraged," said Sanders. "We have been through the hard times and this is what they reward us with? Raising our prices. It's outrageous. I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm very frustrated. It reflects upon the respect the management of the team has toward the devoted fan when they do something like this."

Pollin built the $220 million MCI Center with his own money, and the Wizards and Capitals moved into the building in December 1997.

The Wizards last raised season ticket prices for the premier seats in 2002, when the season tickets increased from $100 a seat to $110 per game.

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