The Chicago Cubs Ticket Price Increase for 2016 in Context

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The Chicago Cubs Ticket Price Increase for 2016 in Context

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As you may well know (or at least expect), Chicago Cubs ticket prices are expected to increased by roughly 10% heading into the 2016 season.

What you may not know, though, is that prices had stayed relatively flat from 2012 through 2015, in large part because, well, the Cubs weren’t particularly good during that stretch.

In fact, keeping ticket prices steady was probably a very conscious decision not to antagonize a fan base that was patiently waiting through the lulls of a 4-5 year rebuild. Of course, that rebuild ended in a very big way last year, as the Cubs won 97 games and reached the NLCS for just the fourth time since WWII.

So, as logic would follow, it should make sense for Cubs ticket prices to rise, given the increased competitiveness, playoff appearance and relatively flat prices over the past few years.

But does that actually make sense?

In an article at FanGraphs, Owen Watson tries to determine the impact of wins, stadiums and economies on ticket prices in baseball. Playing off of his own season ticket experiences with the Oakland A’s, Watson graphs the average ticket prices of each team in MLB, and then compares the year by year changes to new stadiums, wins, playoff appearances and the general drift of the economy.

It is an excellent read, and I encourage you to take a look at the interactive graphs for yourself.

In 2015, the average ticket price to an MLB game was $28.94. The Cubs’ average ticket cost that year ($44.81) was a good deal higher, although not the most in baseball. That honor goes to the Boston Red Sox ($52.34), who finished just ahead of the New York Yankees ($51.55). In fact, baseball seems to be alive and well on the East coast, because the Phillies ($37.42) and the Nationals ($36.02) finished fourth and fifth, overall, as well.

Let’s dive into some of the causes of today’s ticket prices.

According to Watson’s data, a new stadium is a big indication of rising ticket prices in the future. From the opening of new stadiums in Washington (Nationals), New York (Yankees), New York (Mets), Minneapolis (Twins) and Miami (Marlins), we find an expected 42.8% increase in ticket prices. Of course, the new Yankee Stadium (+76.3% price increase) was a huge outlier, and skews the relatively small sample. Still, without it, consumers can expect ticket prices to increase by roughly 28.3% (or $6.79) due to a new stadium opening.

Although there was some indication of ticket prices following the number of wins a team had, the trend wasn’t particularly conclusive. But, as it turns out, playoff exposure is a factor.

From 2008 – 2015, the average yearly increase of ticket prices for all teams, was roughly 3.6%. But just by appearing in the Wild Card game (6.7%), the Divisional Series (7.4%), the Championship Series (5.4%) and the World Series (4.8%), teams’ ticket prices rose more than average in the following year. Which means, on average, playoff teams increase their ticket prices more than teams who end their season in September (to be expected).

So, then, what we’ve seen from the Cubs, especially given the flat years prior to 2015, is to be expected.

There is plenty more in Watson’s article, including far deeper explanations on each interactive graph and chart. And, if you’d like to see how the U.S. Median Household income growth relates to the change in average ticket prices, (you’re a nerd) you should definitely check out Watson’s article. I kid, of course, because this is actually an extremely enlightening project. Given the importance of tickets to the business side and the importance of the business side to actual baseball, itself, this is an important discussion to keep in mind.

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Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami