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The Pirates raise prices for walkup tickets, but it’s cool

Jan 25, 2011, 8:25 AM EDT

Empty PNC Park

My eyes bulged a bit when I saw that the Pirates had raised some ticket prices. The Pirates? Really? You can’t give Pirates tickets away some days, so how do they get off raising prices? Then I read further — and read Dejan Kovacevic’s longer take on it — and realized that (a) it’s only a slight increase for same-day walkup tickets; and (b) the rest of the Pirates tickets haven’t gone up in nine years.

Nine years!  Pretty good deal, it seems to me. Of course it’s the Pirates and you get what you pay for, but it’s not so bad given that you’re guaranteed to have at least one major league team to watch on any given night at PNC Park.  At least if it’s not an interleague game against the Indians.

The story has me thinking a bit about the walkup ticket market. Kovacevic talks about it a bit in his piece. Because I’ve never lived in the same town as a major league team I think I’ve only done the walkup thing two or three times ever. On those occasions, though, I’m certain that price wouldn’t have been a big factor for me. The biggest investment was the decision to change my plans and find a parking place. Once I was at the ticket booth it was a done deal, whether the tickets were $8 or $20 bucks simply because it was an impulsive thing.

Anyone do frequent walkups? What’s the calculus? Cheap tickets? A lark that you’d do whatever the cost?  I wonder what teams could do to maximize revenue with those kinds of tickets.  I bet if they sold them really cheap in nearby bars that they’d get tons of people buying. And since they were in bars anyway, they’d be people likely to get an over-priced beer or two.

  1. Brian - Jan 25, 2011 at 8:35 AM

    I remember when I was in high school, we could walk up to Veteran’s Stadium for a 7:05 game at around, oh 6:30 and snag tickets about 10 rows up from scott rolen for $22. Once we even got to see an epic pitcher’s duel between Curt Schilling and Brett Myers for a mere pittance.

    Oh, the walk-up, how I miss thee.

    • phillysoulfan - Jan 25, 2011 at 9:16 AM

      One walk up I remember was in ’93. Phillies-Padres double header. Yeah, that one. The one when Mitchie-Pooh hit a double off HOFer Trevor Hoffman at 4:55 AM.

      • Jonny 5 - Jan 25, 2011 at 10:00 AM

        Is it me, or does Mitch just seem to be plain better on MLB network than he was on CSN? It’s probably the script he’s now given, but he would annoy me with his commentary after Phills games. He played that replay on MLB by the way, when Hoffman announced his retirement. Trevor isn’t a HOFer btw… Well not yet anyway. And I wouldn’t vote for him if I were a BWAA member either.

  2. Panda Claus - Jan 25, 2011 at 8:35 AM

    I’ve never been much of a walkup person either. The O’s added this walkup ticket surcharge prior to last season, and although it doesn’t affect me, it still slightly irks me. Not even sure why.

  3. thinman61 - Jan 25, 2011 at 8:35 AM

    I’ve done walkups a bunch of times. It got a little better last year, but from ’05 through about ’09 it was one of the few reliable ways of getting tickets to Fenway without paying big markups buying them through StubHub. The tradeoff is giving up several hours of your afternoon waiting in line in order to see a Sox game at home for face value.

  4. yankeesfanlen - Jan 25, 2011 at 8:38 AM

    Don’t know much about the secondary ticket market, including walk-ups, although my Pittsburgh connection says they’re always there for the taking.
    On the other hand, at the cathedral, you can have the impulse, which will end up one of two ways:
    1. Overpay by 20-50% at the Stub-Hub window for the worst seats in the section (price point).
    Or:
    2. Listen to John and Suzyn in the $30 parking space.

    • Rosenthals Speling Instrukter - Jan 25, 2011 at 9:08 AM

      I might still go with #1. I was hoping for a player with the last name Dong to join the yankees to see what gem John would come up with for the next HR call.
      Maybe something like:

      And it’s far it’s back…..Ring ding DONG…Ring a ding ding ding DONG.

      Or

      A dong for all the fans out there

      Or the always memorable

      And it’s back and……there’s your automobile.

  5. mithrophon - Jan 25, 2011 at 8:44 AM

    I walked up at Three Rivers many times during the grand 1996-97 seasons (the Al Martin, Dale Sveum salad years). Had it down to a science. Pay between $4 and $8 for the worst seats in the park (depending on day of the week), then tip an usher $20 to sit behind home plate (or, conversely, stake out an empty section down the 3rd base line and casually saunter over to pick up any foul ball that landed there).

  6. Adam - Jan 25, 2011 at 8:45 AM

    I did walk ups for a series when I was in San Diego. My theory was that I knew it wouldn’t be sold out and I could get in for cheap. They also have game day specials (meals, etc included) that I didn’t know about online, so that helped.

    And, somehow, the Sunday game in San Diego was sold out so I actually bought some scalped tickets. So I guess I didn’t care how much it cost, I was going to get my baseball.

    I’m guessing that teams get a fair amount of their walk up business this way. People in from out of town for business or pleasure who decide to take in a game. If it’s not a big team in town (Boston, Yankees, etc) you can be fairly certain that there will be some tickets available. Since you don’t have time to have them mailed and don’t have a printer to print the tickets you buy, why not just go get them from the people at the stadium?

  7. levistahl - Jan 25, 2011 at 9:07 AM

    In the mid-90s, I used to buy walkups to the Cubs three or four times each year. That was back when they didn’t come close to selling out every game: for day games early in the season you could buy an upper deck ticket and sit anywhere but the first twenty rows or so of the lower deck, and for weekend games against anyone but the Cardinals, you could almost always count on getting seats somewhere in the upper deck.

    Oh, and the upper deck tickets were $8. It was a good time . . . ruined, really, by the combination of the excitement over the ’98 team, which, buoyed by the team’s just-frequent-enough success since then, has kept attendance high, and the increase in the number of night games.

  8. sdelmonte - Jan 25, 2011 at 9:09 AM

    I did plenty of walk-ups at Shea over the years, usually taking cheap seats way way up, but behind the plate. It was fun, something to do on the spur of the moment.

    These days, though, I think I will more likely scan StubHub for something that gets me closer to the action at the same price as anything I could get at the gate. And it’s not like there are any $5 tickets to be had anyplace but StubHub,etc.

  9. BC - Jan 25, 2011 at 10:04 AM

    I recall sometime in the mid-90′s when the Mets really sucked (I mean, logarithmically more than their current suckatude factor) when my brother and I got walkup tickets for $10 in the upper deck behing home plate. A 20-oz beer cost more than half the ticket price. Heck, tolls were equal to the ticket price.

  10. dan1111 - Jan 25, 2011 at 10:29 AM

    Living in Pittsburgh a few years ago, we attended numerous Pirates games. We never bought tickets ahead of time–you could get any ticket you wanted on game day. There was never even a line at the box office. I imagine that a large percentage of people buy tickets this way at PNC park and other poorly-attended parks.

    The tickets are very cheap, so I can’t really say that it’s unfair of them to raise prices a bit. However, this can only increase the considerable ill will in Pittsburgh towards the Pirates ownership and management. It will play perfectly into the popular view (fair or not) that they don’t care about winning, only money. Is the bad PR worth a small potential increase in revenue?

  11. andrewkw - Jan 25, 2011 at 11:07 AM

    Even if I decide to go to a game game day I won’t do walk up. Print at home saves the hassle of a line. It’s actually 1-2$ more expensive to print your own at rogers center then to wait in line, but it seems walk ups are popular in Toronto but paying that 1-2$ and being able to select exactly where I end up sitting is totally worth it. Sure the ticket person can help you find exactly what you’re looking for, but spending 5 minutes at your desk deciding is a lot easier and more comfortable then spending 5 minutes with people behind you.

  12. Bochy's Head/Timmy's Bong - Jan 25, 2011 at 2:12 PM

    I very rarely do walk-up, but not sure why ’cause two of my best baseball experiences came that way. In 2002, my son and I make a last-minute decision to go see Pedro pitch. 35,000 at the Q in San Diego, but 15 minutes before game time I ask for two seats, best-available, and get a pair 7 rows behind home plate. Someone apparently gave their comps back at just the right moment. I feel like I’ve won the lotto. Pedro does not disappoint: 8 IP, 2 H, 0 R, 11 K. And we see every pitch up close. Other time I was in the Bay Area on business, had a night to kill, and the A’s are in town. Cold April night (1998), 7000 was the announced crowd, so I get a single in the second row just past the first base dugout. Game goes extras, wind is blowing, it’s getting bitterly cold, and the 7000 is down to maybe 700, and I’ve got my section all to myself. Rickey fouls a pitch off, it lands a full section away from me, bounces about 15 times, and rolls to my feet. I pick it up and hold it over my head. *crickets* But I still put that ball on my mantle.

  13. Brian Murphy - Jan 25, 2011 at 2:20 PM

    I did walk-ups a few times last season for Dodgers day games. If I was feeling bored at home, I would just take the Metro up to Dodger Stadium. Prices for the seating I like don’t exactly come close to busting wallets, but the money doesn’t matter. The feeling of suddenly preparing to see a baseball game on a oh-what-the-heck whim and the anticipation during that train ride is enough to make anyone’s day brighter. The game is the cherry.

  14. byebyejoshmcd - Jan 25, 2011 at 5:05 PM

    I live in Western MD and am a big Orioles fan. Me and a few buddies will drive down the day of the game, arrive about 30 minutes before game time, and walk up and buy tickets there. We always buy outfield bleacher seats for $15 and are usually in the first 5 rows off the right/center field wall. The seats are great and cheap and we do this for every Orioles game we go to (excluding Red Sox and Yankees games). It saves us from having to pay the convenience and processing charges that you get when buying them online. It’s obviously easier for Orioles games because no one goes to the home games which is why this is so convenient for us.

  15. mvd513 - Jan 26, 2011 at 5:47 AM

    I have, so far, been to Progressive Field, Busch Stadium, US Cellular Field, Turner Field, PNC Park, Camden Yards, Nationals Park, and Great American Ball Park. I understand disrespect for the Pirates in general but the 3 times I’ve been to PNC Park, once in 09 to see the Mets, and twice in ’10 to see the Reds, are among the best baseball experiences I’ve had. I’m a Cincinnatian who loves the Reds and I go to GABP at least 10 times each season, but I love visiting Pittsburgh and watching games in the Pirates home. Point being, Craig, you are baseball writer who lives in Columbus, OH. Have you been to PNC? Cuz there’s literally no reason you shouldn’t have by now.

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