Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Seating Row

Applications for tickets to the Breeders' Cup have been mailed out and are due by June 9th. Some people seem a bit disgruntled at the price increases. Here is the information on prices according to Breeders' Cup.com

"Prices for tickets for the 25th Breeders' Cup will range from $20 for one-day general grandstand admission ($15 for Santa Anita's Thoroughbreds Club members) to reserved grandstand seats ranging from $200 to $600, depending on location, for the two-day package."

I have not been the biggest supporter of the Breeders' Cup organization since Greg Avioli took over as CEO. In general I think they're conspiring to dilute a fantastic event solely in hopes of increasing handle. I don't like a lot of decisions they've made but an increase in ticket prices is something I do support.

I suppose I should add the proviso off the top that I likely won't go to the BC this year. Scheduling and the overall cost of the trip are the two barriers. But if it was local I definitely would attend. It's a premier event and I expect to pay premier prices.

I realize that not everyone is in a financial position to purchase tickets at these prices but people need to realize that their personal financial situation is not a key determinant in the market valuation. Simply put, it's a shame that the everyday fan might be priced out of the market but how many average joes attend the Super Bowl?

Let's look at approximate costs of other major sporting events in North America.

Stanley Cup Playoffs: $170-$715
Grey Cup: $175-$815
Major League Soccer Cup: $115-$2,500
Sugar Bowl: $195-$448
NCAA Semi-Final/Final Combo: $999-2575

For those who don't know the Grey Cup is the championship game for the Canadian Football League. Does the Breeders' Cup really look out of place now? Which one of these events is as long or would personally give you as much enjoyment? The Super Bowl is not even listed here because prices for those tickets are other worldly. They're on a totally different scale and the comparison is unrealistic. But for a closer comparison a seat on Preakness day will costs somewhere between $75-110. The BC is selling seats for two days for $200-$600. That means the cheapest seats for the BC are approximately $100 per day. That's just $25 more than the Preakness and the BC still offers $20 general admission. Pimlico charges $25 for general admission on it's signature day.

These are reasonable prices people. Just because you're not used to paying that much doesn't mean the price is high, it means you haven't really looked at it objectively. The Breeders' Cup might just be the best value major sporting event on the continent.

You could also look at this from another angle. Racing is looking for ways to generate revenue. Traditionally it has all come from handle, but Breeders' Cup day offers the chance to shift the percentages a little. The main income will still come from the handle but think of the type of people who buy the most expensive seats. Many of them are big shots from other walks of life who are not really into racing. Kind of similar to the Derby the Breeders' Cup wants to make the event seem like a red carpet type of thing. An annual place to be seen. The problem with these people is that for all their wealth they're extremely uncomfortable at the windows.

You all heard the interviews on Derby day. Celebrities all plan on betting but they're generally uncomfortable putting down more than $50. So in other words most of them pay more for their seat than they generate in handle. The only realistic way to shift those percentages is to make the seats cheaper because you're not going to make them into hardcore gamblers in a day or two.

Why would we not want to raise ticket prices, especially on the highest end seats? That's the best way to get money out of those patrons. Let's face it, the whales who generally push huge numbers through the windows don't do it from a luxury box. The way to get more money from them is to improve the product they can wager on. But for those who are not comfortable wagering large amounts this is the best way to maximize revenue. Anything they bet is gravy.

The Breeders' Cup despite all the changes is still the best day of racing. It's the best day to watch and bet on and in my opinion it's the best value for a major sporting event anywhere. The seat prices are competitively priced and if you really can't afford it you still have the general admission. I don't see the Super Bowl selling "standing room only" tickets for cut rate prices. No other sport has a cheap outlet like that. We're actually quite blessed.

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