By Chico Harlan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 4, 2008
The Washington Nationals will counter a leaguewide trend next season after announcing they will lower season ticket prices for 7,500 seats, including 3,400 in the lower bowl.
All other tickets in the 41,888-seat park will remain the same price for the 2009 season.
"It's pretty customary in sports nowadays to raise ticket prices every year," team president Stan Kasten said. "We thought it would be nice if we could hold the line, which we did."
Most of the price reductions affect seats between the foul poles -- outfield seats that this year often were the last to fill. So far this season, the Nationals have averaged 29,577 per game, an attendance ranking 18th in baseball. That's a drop-off from the 33,651 the team averaged in its first year at RFK Stadium, in 2005. But this year, the organization relied on a new stadium -- not a new team -- to draw fans. The team has failed to help matters, falling 10 games out of first place in the first week of June.
The Nationals won't announce prices of individual game tickets until the end of the season, Kasten said.
The greatest pricing change comes with the box seats tucked at the very ends of the first and third base lines. Seats that sold for $45 in 2008 will cost $30 in 2009.
All other changes come in the outfield seats.
The trapezoidal section of red seats in front of the Red Porch -- known as the center field reserved and center field lounge seats -- will fall from $40 and $60 to $30 and $50.
The team entered the 2008 season knowing that ticket pricing is an inexact science, especially in a new ballpark in a relatively new market. The change of prices, then, is something of a market correction.
Perhaps the poorest-priced tickets in the ballpark this year were the three second-tier sections (237, 238 and 239) between the scoreboard and the foul pole. This year, season tickets for those sections cost $25; individual game tickets there cost $33. Next year, season tickets for those sections will cost $18. For perspective, St. Louis's Busch Stadium, built with an almost identical blueprint, has comparable season tickets that cost $29.
The Nationals will have 15,219 tickets available for $20 or less.
"You know, everything in the first year of a park is surprising," Kasten said. "We had to learn as we went along. After being here the first year, we watched the usage patterns -- the purchasing patterns -- and we thought it made some sense to lower the price on the tickets that we'll make available next year."
Prices for premium season tickets will remain the same, including the Diamond Seats ($150), the Presidents Seats ($300), the dugout boxes ($60) and the infield boxes ($50).
The Presidents Seats, located just behind home plate, have at times created an eyesore on television this year, at times creating the allusion of a half-empty ballpark. But Kasten said that the team is pleased with tickets in that area.
"That really worked out quite well for us between the groups and functions we've had in there," he said.