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Wizards raising some season ticket prices for a third straight year

(Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Despite a thus-far disappointing season, the Wizards will raise many season ticket prices for a third straight year. But about half their tickets will either not change prices, or increase by 5 percent or less.

Monumental Sports froze ticket prices for three years after obtaining full control of the Wizards in 2011. When the freeze expired in 2014, the team increased prices by an average of about 11 percent — the first hike since the 2007-08 season. Most season ticket prices also increased entering this season, with an average increase of 22 percent, according to the team.

But the past two seasons ended in the playoffs. The Wizards are currently mired in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, and will be fighting just to get into the postseason. That fact isn’t lost on some of their ticket holders.

“I feel this sets an unfair precedent to their customers: that a worsening product justifies price increases,” wrote one Wizards season ticket holder, whose 100-level tickets have now gone up three years in a row, and will cost 22 percent more next season. “For my tickets to go up 22 percent and [around 80 percent] in the last six years, I am questioning if I want to keep the tickets.”

Another, Michael Hershaft, doesn’t mind paying more for his Caps season tickets, which are also increasing for next season.

“That’s surely justified, given what I’ve seen on the ice,” said Hershaft, in his second season as a Wizards season ticket holder. “This year there’s clearly not an improvement in the team. The team’s gone downhill.”

Hershaft’s 100-level seats have gone up in price two years in a row, this time by about 10 percent.

But nearly 40 percent of Wizards season tickets will not go up in price next season, according to the team. Full-season ticket prices will increase by an average of about 8 percent, also according to the team. The team’s ticket prices were in the bottom half of the NBA this season, and “based on previous history, we anticipate these price changes to leave us in the bottom half of season ticket pricing for the 2016-17 season,” a team spokesman wrote in an email.

At least some season-ticket holders recognize that, and were not angry over the increases.

“I don’t think the prices downstairs are unreasonable when you compare them to the rest of the NBA,” said Jonathan Hopwood, a 16-year season ticket holder whose lower bowl seats will go up by about 21 percent next season. “It’s just difficult when you’re faced with a team on the court that loses to the Lakers and the Nuggets at home. You see ticket prices going up and the performance going down.”

Still, Hopwood plans to renew his lower bowl seats and two more seats in the upper bowl, which will also go up slightly in price.

As in the past, some of the ticket increases came from dividing up sections into different price points, with seats closer to the court now costing more than the seats behind them. The newest season ticket map lists 35 pricing sections; there were 30 a year ago and 26 three years ago.

Eight corner sections of the upper bowl will gain tiers next season, with per-game prices in the lower tier increasing from $16 to $20, a 25 percent jump. Many 100-level seats behind the baskets saw sizable increases, from $46 to either $50 or $56. There were also price increases in many club-level and sideline seats. Center-court lower bowl seats, for example, will go from $150 to $158 per game, a 5 percent increase, while some lower bowl corner seats will go up by 21 percent.

According to the team, lower-bowl prices will increase an average of 8.8 percent, with club and upper-bowl prices increasing by an average of 6.5 and 6.3 percent, respectively. Those increases, according to at least some fans, would be easier to stomach if the team was still winning.

“I don’t see an improvement on the court or anywhere in the arena, and the tickets are harder to sell,” Hershaft said. “Maybe they’re banking on [Kevin] Durant. I just don’t know if I’m going to put down the money on the off-chance that he comes.”

“This season has been the most frustrating season — even worse than the Mike Miller and Randy Foye season — because you just thought finally we were going in the right direction,” said Hopwood. “I can afford it, but it’s a question of whether I want to.”

(Full disclosure: The author’s wife is a Wizards season-ticket holder whose prices increased slightly for next season.)