Bay Area sports usher in new wave of fandom

This season, the Oakland Athletics will change baseball. It isn’t the first time they have done so, and, if all goes according to plan, it certainly won’t be the last. However, unlike Moneyball, their first innovation that spawned a Michael Lewis book and subsequent Brad Pitt movie, this development will take place entirely off the field: The 2019 Oakland Athletics are offering a new kind of season ticket.

On July 30, 2018, the Athletics issued a press release announcing the end of their traditional ticketing system—fans paying for the rights to a reserved seat—and introducing a creative new one: A’s Access. The new plan allows members general-admission access to every game as well as an allotment of games in which the member is assigned to a seat. As members pay more, they earn more assigned-seat games. The A’s will also offer other perks, like cheaper concessions and merchandise.

Given the sparse crowds that attend their games, an additional flexibility in their season-ticket plan is the team’s latest effort to boost attendance. The Athletics averaged 19,427 fans in attendance at their home games during the 2018 season, fourth-worst in all of baseball. As a result, they decided to draw from a rising interest in entertainment subscription models like MoviePass and alter their season ticket plan.

“Obviously, this is a trend in ticketing even outside of sports,” Daniel Rascher, director of academic programs for the sports management program at the University of San Francisco, said in an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle. “Customers and fans want flexibility, and, if the teams can absorb the fluctuations in demand, they can take on that risk and offer that to fans.”

With the change, fans, who could not afford a traditional plan, have already purchased multiple A’s Access memberships.

“We’re very moderately middle class,” Roberto Santiago, a Bay Area teacher with three children, told the San Francisco Chronicle. “So, something as luxurious as season tickets wasn’t going to be in the cards for us without something like this.”

Across the Oakland Coliseum parking lot lies Oracle Arena, the current home of the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. When the Warriors move to their new home in San Francisco later in 2019, they, too, will experiment with a new season ticket plan. In their new Chase Center, the Warriors will become the second NBA team to sell personal seat licenses. However, they are the first to use it as the predominant model for season ticketing. A personal seat license is a paid license that then gives the owner the right to purchase traditional season tickets for that particular seat in the stadium. The model is already popular in both American football and European soccer.

That plan is not cheap. The median cost for the 12,000 personal seat licenses to be put on sale will be $15,000. And, with the Warriors franchise planning to self-finance the new arena, the license will act as an interest-free, tax-free loan from the consumer to the owners since the Warriors will return the license money after 30 years.

Unlike the Athletics, the two-time defending champion Warriors do not struggle with attendance. Instead, by fixing their supply-and-demand issue, Golden State is pricing longtime diehard fans out of the basketball experience. While baseball fans like Santiago are now afforded the opportunity to join the season-ticket-holding fanbase, the Warriors’ endeavour does not cater to their working- and middle-class fans.

Ultimately, teams are looking to maximize their attendance and the revenue that comes with it, and their experiments with season ticket plans are worth tracking. As sports fans look for new ways to engage with their favourite franchises, teams will continue to fine-tune the in-game experiences that they are offering.

 

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