cubs ticketsAnecdotally, it feels like interest in Chicago Cubs season tickets this year is the lowest it’s been in a decade. In something that would have been unthinkable just three years ago, I now regularly see comments/tweets/emails/etc. discussing the following scenario: my number is finally up on the season ticket wait list, and I’m trying to decide whether to buy season tickets.

Crazy, right? I mean, that’s why you’re on a ten-year-long wait list, isn’t it? When the opportunity comes up, you jump.

… but I can understand where these folks are coming from. With a lengthy rebuild underway, and a product on the field that is less than compelling, folks have to decide whether to pony up for a couple years of probably weak baseball in exchange for locking up those tickets when the Cubs are good again (and when getting season tickets will be much more difficult).

It’s not the situation you’d like to see Cubs fans in, given the importance of ticket revenue to the long-term health of baseball operations. And a strong season ticket holder base, similarly, is hugely important, because it’s a guaranteed chunk of that revenue – rain or shine. Are the Cubs in trouble in that regard?

Maybe not. Some encouraging news from Cubs VP of Sales and Partnerships Colin Faulkner, by way of Danny Ecker at Crain’s. Faulkner says that season ticket renewals are actually up this year compared to last year, thanks in large part to a more focused sales effort. In the last year, the Cubs have beefed up the customer service in their ticket sales department (perhaps some of you have noticed), and have worked hard to ensure that current season ticket holders have a good reason to remain current season ticket holders.

The increase in renewals is about five percentage points from last year, according to Faulkner, which puts the renewal rate in the mid-80s, percentage-wise. That renewal increase amounts to an increase in guaranteed revenue of about $3 million, by Ecker’s calculations. For more on that piece, and some additional thoughts from Ecker and Faulkner, make sure to read the piece over at Crain’s.

As they say, it’s easy to keep an old customer than to find a new one. So holding onto the season ticket holders the Cubs already have is a great start to stabilizing the falling attendance over the past five years. (Once stabilized, selling more single game tickets is going to be the key to bringing attendance back up. And that’s likely to come only when the Cubs actually start winning again.)

Of course, if the renewal rate keeps increasing, there won’t be many new season tickets to go around when the Cubs are on the verge of a decade-long successful run, as they could be very soon. Puts the decision to secure season tickets when offered the chance into a new light, eh?

  • justinjabs

    “Puts the decision to secure season tickets when offered the chance into a new light, eh?”

    Perhaps this is another negotiation tactic leak from the team a la “Samardzija 99%” tactic…

    • JulieYGoCubs

      “Puts the decision to secure season tickets when offered the chance into a new light, eh?”

      Hmmm….Almost makes me wonder and want to read this blog in a new light, eh?

      • Brett

        That comment wasn’t as anonymous-ly as you may have hoped.

        As to the substance, you may read the site in any light you like. I’ve written it with the same bent for five years, and I don’t much care for your implication.

  • Caryatid62

    As sneeze hw was ovr 21,000th on the list coming into this season and got my number called this year, I’m dubious as to their claims. I’m sure there is some truth in there, but it’s probably more along the lines of “all revenue is going back into the baseball budget”-type truth.

    However, based on that last paragraph, the Cubs sales and marketing department could use a guy like you. Wow, man. That’s an advertisement worthy of Black Friday right there.

    • Caryatid62

      Wow–that first paragraph was an iPad keyboard nightmare.

      “As someone who was over…” should be the beginning.

    • DarthHater

      So, what happens if your number comes up and you don’t bite? Do you drop off the list, so that you would have to start over at the bottom if you decided to try again in the future?

      • MichiganGoat

        Yup that’s what I’ve been told if you pass on an opportunity it to the back of the line for you.

    • Brett

      I’m unabashedly pro-Cub, so there’s no argument there. But the conclusion is really just one of pragmatism. I know what it was like trying to get tickets – let alone season tickets – in 2008.

      • Caryatid62

        Given that the team has already hinted at punting the next two years, I would guess that the 20-30,000 one might spend on the tickets for the next two years would give them plenty of money to spend on future tickets, including playoff tickets.

        I would also say that, as an influential writer who is, admittedly, very pro-Cub in most his writings, I’m sure you recognize that ending a post with what amounts to “don’t miss out! Buy those season tickets TODAY!” might make your audience a little skeptical about the motivations of the author

        • TulaneCubs

          Couple of things:

          1. $20-$30K? I don’t think you know what the season ticket prices are. You could have gotten a seat for $1,600 last year. No one is buying 1, so that means a pair costs you $3,200. So, for 2 seasons, that’s $6,400. And you can get the nights and weekends plan that’s even cheaper than that. Sure, there are prime seats that can run up to $28K for a pair for 2 seasons, but most of the seats don’t come anywhere near that.

          2. I don’t think Brett has ever intended to be an unbiased writer. He states his opinion on many matters including the direction of the club, individual acquisitions, management decisions, etc. He hasn’t been shy in saying that he likes this plan and thinks that it’ll pay off in a couple of years. If that’s the case, then it logically follows that he thinks season tickets would be a good investment for those that can afford to bite the bullet for a couple of years.

          • caryatid62

            1. 400 Level tickets would be $5000 per seat per year. 2 seats x 2 years=$20,000. That was my base level, with the $30,000 being the higher range. I should have indicated that there were cheaper options, but the fact remains that a fan would be shelling out $7000 for the right to watch a terrible team. Pragmatically, that money might be better saved, bearing interest, which could then be used to buy more expensive playoff tickets in the future.

            2. The problem is not having a perspective that supports the Cubs organization. The problem is then using that perspective to advocate for giving the Cubs organization money, which (from a journalistic ethics standpoint), is questionable. The last paragraph was essentially the equivalent of a Cubs press release. Even if you believe the Cubs plan is sound, advocating that buying season tickets “while they last” is not exactly the most apparent logical conclusion. It’s more of an advertisement for the Cubs.

            • Patrick W.

              My season tickets are just under 1,600 per, in the 500 level about 15 seats to the right of the press box. They are only for nights and weekends, a package I don’t believe they offer anymore but we’ve had since 2004.

              • caryatid62

                Yeah, they got rid of the nights and weekends package sometime around 2006 or 2007, I believe. I shared a night/weekend package back in 2004 and 2005. It was a pretty good deal, although it was damn near impossible to get anyone to take the March/April night games.

                • TulaneCubs

                  No, they had the nights and weekends at least through 2012 for new season ticket holders and I believe they offered it last year to new season ticket holders.

                  • Rick Reuschels Evil Twin

                    Only nights and weekends for new season ticket holders in the bleachers – if you are in the bowl, all new plans since 2006 in the seating bowl are full season only.

            • TulaneCubs

              1. Those tickets can be resold to recoup a great amount of that cost.

              2. Brett is a blogger, not a writer for the Trib. If he believes in the Cubs plan and thinks they’re going to win, he can make whatever recommendations he wants. Or say whatever he wants on any topic. Because… Well… This is his blog where he’s always spoke his mind on topics about the Cubs. If you think the plan will work, then buying season tickets is a logical next step, based on the demand for Cubs tickets and playoff tickets when the club is good.

            • Brett

              That number 2 there is a pretty unfair criticism.

              The ethical code by which I stand is to be fair, honest, and transparent. I am those things, sometimes to a fault. Anything beyond that, and you’re trying to paint me as something I’m not.

              Here’s the thing: I really love the Peppermint Chocolate Chip Milkshake from Chick-fil-A. It’s the most delicious thing I’ve ever tasted. And I’ll gladly tell the world – right here on this very blog – that they should go out and buy one right now, because it’s that awesome.

              Sounds a lot like an advertisement, right? It actually just happens to be what I think.

              Buy Cubs season tickets or don’t. In terms of an individual’s actual decision, I don’t really give a hoot. But my opinion is that The Plan is going to work. My opinion is that the Cubs will start winning consistently within a couple years. My opinion is that, when the Cubs start winning consistently, tickets are going to be very hard to come by.

              You can call that an advertisement if you’d like. But I’d probably question your motives just as you question mine. I’m just a dude who writes about the Cubs, and I’m beholden to no one. I offer my opinions. That was one of ’em.

              And the Peppermint Chocolate Chip Milkshake from Chick-fil-A is so damn good that you should go buy one right now.

  • Stockholm Cubs

    “That renewal increase amounts to an increase in guaranteed revenue of about $3 million, by
    Ecker’s calculations.”

    How can that be an increase in guaranteed revenue, unless the season tickets otherwise would have been unsold? Maybe I’m not getting it… and maybe I should ask Ecker.

    • Sandberg

      Yeah his statement is marketing nonsense.

    • Brett

      I’m not sure the confusion – it sounds like you’ve got it. The crux is “guaranteed.” And, since single game tickets haven’t exactly been flying off the shelves the last few years (and the new season ticket holder pool is going through a questionable period), having that guarantee isn’t meaningless.

      • DarthHater

        I don’t think anyone is denying that 1,200 renewals is better than 1,200 non-renewals and has some dollar value. But it does appear overly simplistic for Ecker to suggest that that dollar value is $3 million without taking account of how many of those 1,200 season tickets would have been purchased by someone else.

    • jim

      Ecker’s math is all wrong.
      The renewal rate is higher on a smaller base. It is NOT possible that
      it brings in more money. Just not possible.

  • mtcubfan (Paul)

    Last year, I was one of the die hard Cub Fans whose number came up for season tickets after being on the wait list for over 10 years. Oh no – 3 years earlier than what I was anticipating. Faced with a decision of do I go to the back of the waiting list, or do I purchase season tickets. Living in Montana, I know I would need to resell a good portion of the tickets, which I knew would be at a lost. As any good husband will do, I asked my wife (a Pirate’s fan) her opinion fearing that I knew the answer. To my surprise, she said “the Cubs are your passion and you could die in 2 years so go for it”. Despite the unlovely thought of passing, I did go for it, but now I am not sure how much longer I can afford to hang on. I am feeding my addiction one year at a time. But I can at least say I was a Cub Season Ticket holder. And as for the lost money, it is better than some of the losses in the stock market, at least I get to see Cub baseball once in awhile.

    • KielOvher

      I feel your pain, Paul. What a drag.

  • Tommy

    Wasn’t their drop in season ticket sales from the last year at least partially due to them trying to weed out the ticket brokers? I seem to remember some articles here about that last year, no?

    • justinjabs

      Yes, you’re right. So the increase could just be they’re no longer trying to weed people out because they’ve already gotten rid of them. Good catch.

    • Brett

      I recall that as well – I wonder if that’s being counted in renewal rates.

    • TulaneCubs

      They’re weeding out more this year, although I’d guess that it won’t be as many as last year.

  • Dave

    I’m up to 34,000 and change (after nearly 6 years) and, just a hedge, I signed up again (putting me at around 92,000) because if I get the call in the next 2 years I will be stuck in Missouri and it wouldn’t make much sense to buy season tickets. After finishing up my CPA, on the other hand…

  • Barroof

    My number came up last year but the Cubs told me they do not offer Box Seats to first time buyers and that I would have to start in the 200 section and wait for upgrades. This would not work for me and after a bad experience with my Blackhawks tickets years ago I won’t go down that road again. Guess I’ll just line the pockets of the scalpers for good seats and fewer games.

  • Chris

    Just curious any idea how much season tickets will cost? Just for a rough estimate.

    • TulaneCubs

      Upper Deck outfield reserved season tickets cost $1,631 each last year.

      Bleachers $3,075 each.

      IF Terrace Box $4,814 each.

      Just a few sections.

  • mtcubfan (Paul)

    Chris – the cost of season tickets depends on where your seats are and what plan you select. One seat on the daily plan in Upper Infield Section (such as Section 417) costs around $4,750 (includes the 12% amusement taxes).

  • 1060Ivy

    Any chance that Cubs are counting renewals differently than what normally would consider to be renewals?

    I’ve worked in an industry in which they consider renewals to be 100% when approximately 84% actually renew their contracts that year.

    The difference is due to assuming that 16% of households may move, die off, marry or consolidate with another household or otherwise no longer exist. That % has varied from year to year from a low of 6% to high of 20%. It is based on a survey of their customer base which typically has a small sample set.

  • North Side Irish

    Josh Noel ‏@traveljosh 1h
    The worst thing that could happen to a #Cubs fan has happened: my place on the season ticket waiting list came up.,0,7168605.story

    Name drops Brett Taylor in the article too…

  • Kyle

    This feels like one of those cooked numbers they came up with that are technically true but misleading. I don’t remotely know enough about tickets to say how, but I’d bet there’s something more to the story.

    • hansman

      It’s slightly cooked. Last year they booted a bunch of ST holders off the rolls that had far too many tickets for where they lived.

      My season ticket lady said the worst offender she has heard of was a guy in California with 150 tickets that got the boot.

      So renewals being up isn’t a surprise but it isn’t a bad thing.

      • anonymous-ly

        The Cubs should have waited until 2016 to kick off the ticket brokers that held 150-500 seats. Let the ticket brokers subsidize the Cubs until 2016, instead of forcing “real” fans to make an immediate monetary decision now.

        • anonymous-ly

          On further thought, the Cubs would have probably let the brokers stay for a few more years, but there were too many empty seats(tickets brokers could not sell). Empty seats = less beer sales stadium revenues, etc.

  • YourResidentJag

    Bruce Levine ‏@MLBBruceLevine 26m
    Cubs still think Javier Baez is a future big league shortstop . That said they will consider moving him to second base if Castro stays.

  • KielOvher

    I put my name on the wait list in 2007. My current number on the wait list is 21,900 (I just looked it up). My number got called this year. While I was at the personal tour for wait listed people whose number was up, I asked how is that possible? She said there are more season tickets available this year than ever before for a couple reasons. Two specific examples she gave 1.The Trib ‘gave back’ all the season tickets they’ve held since they owned the team. She said that number was 6,000 seats. !?! and B. They’re doing their best to weed out the scalpers. She sited one guy from California they booted. He had over 500 seats. She went on to say that she expects the line to never move this fast again.

    Personally, I just don’t know what to do. My obsession/addiction/love for the Cubs is unquestionable. That will never ever change. But there is no way we can afford to buy season tickets right now. And I can’t find EVEN ONE person willing to share/split the season with me. It’s so depressing. When I signed up on the list I was single, disposable income galore, no kids, livin’ the life. Now, I’m married with two kids, a mortgage, one income, out in the ‘burbs, blah blah blah. How can I justify spending that kind of money? For multiple years? Until *hopefully* the Cubs are competitive again? I can’t. It makes me sick to have to say no. But I think I have to. Such a huge bummer.

  • HateDemp

    I am a season ticket holder. No demand for most games on stubhub, but hanging on for the future. You can minimize your loss by donating unused tickets to charity; plenty in Chicago that will be happy to use them and you get the tax deduction.

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  • Kasey Ignarski

    I know, I am late to this discussion, but I wanted to add my 2 cents here. I am a season ticket holder. Not a full season, but a Weekend/Night package. I have been a season ticket holder since 1984 (yes, I bought my ticket in the winter of 83-84). It was a Weekend only package back then. I am grandfathered into this package as they don’t offer it to people in the bowl area.

    2 things about my ticket..1)Someone said no one buys just 1 season ticket…well I did. 2013 was the 30th year that I have had my ticket. I started out sitting by the CUbs bullpen in 84 & 85, but when the Cubs decided not to sell those tickets on a partial basis anymore, I got moved to the 200 level,,,and that is where I want to make my 2nd point. THe 200 level isn’t that bad. My seat in in Aisle 209 about in the middle between 209 & 211. No obstructions, Great view of the field. I would not hesitate to buy 200 level tickets.

    As a season ticket holder, I have seen a bunch of up and down seasons. I never went into this thinking about re-selling my ticket. About 5 years in, my friend who I went to college with moved back to Chicago and bought a ticket for himself. After his 1st year where we just sat next to each other at games (yes, we were able to do that back then), we asked for our seats to be moved together and the ticket office obliged that request. After I got married and my daughter was born, I made Saturdays my family day and I did not go on Saturdays. My Buddy was nice enough that he bought a majority (but not all) of my Saturday tickets. Eventually lights were added and night games were added to my package. I could not go to all the night games (especially after they kept bumping up the number of them) so I ended up eating tickets. About the mid 90’s, a family got tickets next to ours and we developed a friendship with them. During the years, several members of this family have died off, and now there is only 1 of them left, but I consider that 1 person, my buddy and the other people around me my baseball family…and thats what I really wanted to talk about.

    Having season tickets is not only about going to the games. For me, it is the people who I see at the park. I have made many friends at the park and these are people who I enjoy seeing & being with. I don’t go to bars. I don’t go out with friends after work…I go to Wrigley. This is my vice. My wife understands this and it’s ok with her. For me, its what I do. My season tickets are not only about the games, but about the people I see at the park.

    I understand it when people who buy tickets with the thought they will re-sell their tickets would have 2nd thoughts about their tickets, but for me and my friends, it’s not only abut the games. It’s the friendships we made at the park and fun we have at the park. The game is what brings us there, but its the people that keep us coming.

    (sorry for being a bit long winded)

  • Eric S

    Tickets should be easier to move if anything short of the 100 year anniversary of wrigley field. That in addition to the long wait is why I jumped at the opportunity.

  • Rose F

    I had put my name on the waiting list 7 years ago, 2006ish. I had figured at the time that by the time my name was called I would be in a position to afford them. So turning them down this year is an unfortunate decision to have to make. I thought it would be another decade before my number was called.

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