Price of a Phils ticket rises with pitchers’ ERA

The beer may be cheaper at the Vet this season, but tickets aren’t.

Despite its recent history of tepid, sub-.500 performances and a reduced payroll, the ’99 Phillies have jacked up ticket prices by more than 20 percent. As a result, it will cost an average of about $30 more this year to take a family of four to the ballpark.

The Phillies defend the price hike, saying it’s the team’s first across-the-board increase in three years.

Moreover, the club says it believes Major League Baseball is a relative bargain compared to Philadelphia’s other professional sports. Tickets for the Flyers, Eagles and 76ers cost, on average, three to five times more than Phillies ducats.

“We agonized over raising prices,” Phillies ticket boss Richard Deats said yesterday. “Our aim is to keep it affordable. ”

Still, ever skeptical Phillies fans may be left wondering why they are digging deeper this year for the perennial losers.

After all, the team – still mired in a seemingly terminal “rebuilding” phase – has few stars and little chance of making the playoffs.

It is raking in millions from its local broadcast rights and increased ballpark advertising, including new ads on the outfield fences.

And its payroll is down by about $3 million this year. At $26 million in player salaries, the Phillies are among the stingiest teams in the National League.

So, why are they charging us more for a day at the ballpark?

Because we’ll pay it.

“Baseball charges what the market will bear,” said Gerald Scully, an economics professor at the University of Texas at Dallas and author of “The Business of Baseball. ”

“Or, more technically, it sets a ticket price that will maximize its revenue,” he added.

In other words, why charge $15 for a 300 Level seat down the first base line, when most fans willingly pay $17?

Indeed, the price increase hasn’t scared off anyone, if ’99 ticket sales are an indication.

The club already has sold about 1 million tickets, and the team hasn’t even stepped onto the Vet’s fake turf. That’s about 70,000 more than last year at this date.

Deats attributes much of the increased interest to an attractive schedule. The hot weekends in July feature the Braves, Orioles, and Sammy Sosa and the Cubs. Roger Clemens and the world champion Yankees will be making an appearance in June and slugger Mark McGwire should fill the plastic seats when the Cardinals visit in August.

The Phillies aren’t the only club capitalizing on those big names. Twenty-six of the 30 Major League teams have jacked up ticket prices this year.

“What’s going on is that baseball is trying to take advantage that its popularity is growing again,” said Andrew Zimbalist, an economics professor at Smith College and author of “Baseball and Billions. ”

“They’ve made a call on the market, and they’re going to test it. ”

Said Deats: “It’s not like we doubled our prices. On average, the increase is about $2.20 a ticket. We feel we still give good value for your dollar.”

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