A few of you passed along an interesting tidbit to me (thank you) about a change to the Chicago Cubs’ season ticket renewal process this year. Folks with season tickets will now be receiving their renewal materials in September for 2015, and will required to put down a deposit – i.e., make their first payment – by October 13. That’s a month earlier than the deposit date in 2013, though the final payment is still due in mid-January. That means season ticket holders will have a little longer to pay for their tickets, but the Cubs will have commitments a month earlier than last year.
The stated reason for the change is “an overwhelming desire [by season ticket holders] to add more time between the initial invoice date and final payment due date,” according to Cubs surveys. I have no doubt that that’s a legit request, and a legit reason to bump up the deposit date.
But my instinct on learning of this change was to wonder to what extent the Cubs might also be anticipating an increase in season ticket demand this offseason (yes, they have a waiting list, but we’ve all heard the stories of folks far down on the list getting the call and choosing not to purchase). If the Cubs were expecting a surge in demand, having an early cutoff for deposits would give them a lot more time to work on getting new season ticket holders into the fold. And more season ticket holder sales means more guaranteed revenue in place for 2015, which can only assist with baseball operations planning.
It’s no secret that it feels like the Cubs are at a bit of a turning point, and I can guarantee that will be felt in the offseason as folks are confronted with the decision to buy or renew season tickets (I cautioned that this was coming last year, and was ripped by some for being a PR shill for the Cubs … nope, it just turns out that I may understand a few things about the Cubs’ plan, Cubs fans, and the nature of the Cubs ticket-buying market). With attendance falling dramatically each of the last five seasons, the Cubs may finally have a chance to reverse course in 2015, and locking in a healthy number of season tickets in the offseason could go a long way to helping that cause. (Of course, you don’t want to lock in too many season tickets, because, with variable pricing, you need to leave in a hedge to make even more revenue if the Cubs prove to be competitive next year … but we’re getting into pricing curves and demand questions that are way beyond the Econ101 class I barely passed in college.)
Against that backdrop, I reached out to the Cubs for comment on the shift in the deadline, and to ask whether they were, indeed, anticipating a surge in ticket demand this offseason. While a team spokesman would not confirm a connection between the advanced deadline and ticket demand, he did say that the team’s surveys indicate fans are feeling more positive about the direction of the team. He wouldn’t go further than that, though, until there’s some data to which to point about renewals and sales later in the offseason. It does stand to reason, however, that if fans are feeling more positive about what is to come – and how could you not at this point? – season ticket sales and renewals could be stronger this offseason than in recent years.
This will be interesting to look back on in January and February to see how things actually played out. If I’m betting, we’re going to see a very strong renewal rate for season tickets, and, should the Cubs choose to increase the base, a strong showing in new season ticket sales, as well. Given that the Cubs’ revenue picture is still largely predicated on ticket sales, this could be a very good offseason in that regard.
An extremely interesting aside from the season ticket holder notice: the annual relocation event, which historically had taken place inside Wrigley, will be online this year. Why? “[T]he upcoming restoration of Wrigley Field will result in the ballpark being closed during the offseason for construction. As a result, our in-person Season Ticket Holder Relocation Event will now take place as an online exercise.” Eyebrows raise. This notice, it should be pointed out, was sent after the rooftops filed suit against the City and the Landmarks Commission.
I’d still preach caution on taking this as certain, definite confirmation that construction will be going full force after the season. The Cubs had to send this notice out now, and they had to make plans for alternative arrangements assuming the construction is taking place. Remember, the Cubs cancelled the ice rink at Wrigley Field last year because of the possibility of construction. That didn’t happen.
Still, it’s interesting that the present expectation is still for significant construction.