Jul 1, 2013; Houston, TX, USA; A Houston Astros fan claps during the game against the Tampa Bay Rays during the eighth inning at Minute Maid Park. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

Houston Astros: Lessons in How to Destroy a Fanbase


In case you were not aware, single game tickets for the Houston Astros went on sale earlier this week (March 3rd). Generally I take my boys to 5-7 Astros games per year, although last year we only went twice; once on a discount ticket through our little league program and once for free after I signed the CSN Houston petition (Editor’s Note: That petition worked out well, didn’t it?)

With tickets now on sale, I thought I’d look into going to the opening series of the season against the Yankees so my boys could experience what a nearly full Minute Maid Park is like. I went to the Astros site, fired up the seat selector and started clicking on sections. $150 for a box seat, no don’t think so. $91 for seats in right field; nah. $42 for the upper deck? Are you kidding me?

With that I dismissed the thought of going to the opening series and started looking at other options. I grew up a Chicago White Sox fan, they come to town for a series starting May 16th so I decided to look at tickets for that series. $70 for box seats, $40 for right field and $24 for the upper deck. Still not cheap, but what gives? Why the massive difference in price between the two series’?

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This made me curious, so I checked ticket prices for another popular visiting team, the Boston Red Sox, and found prices comparable to the Yankees series. Then, I looked at what is likely an unpopular series, Tampa Bay, and found prices slightly lower than the White Sox series. This is dynamic pricing, started by the Astros last season. Basically what it means is that if you want to see a good team play at Minute Maid Park, you need to take out a second mortgage on your home. If, on the other hand, you want to see a team that has lost 100+ games three seasons in a row play against a slightly better team, you only need to sell a kidney.

Dynamic pricing began last season and I found it slightly irritating. Now, amidst all the other issues related to how this franchise is being run I find it irritating enough to declare a personal boycott of the Astros. In the last years of the  Drayton McLane era, the Astros were bad but at least tickets were more affordable.

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

In 2011, I took my kids to a number of games in the late summer when the Astros ran a buy 1 adult ticket, get 1 child ticket free promo. This was a genius promotion. Baseball has always been a bit boring for kids, but it has become even more so for a generation of kids raised on video games and instant gratification. The only way to get a child to sit still for 9 innings is to buy them something to eat every 2 innings or so. Anyone who has experienced ballpark concession prices knows that this means dropping upwards of $100 for food and drinks. The value gained for the organization far outweighed the loss from giving away a free ticket that probably would not have been sold anyway.

When new ownership came in, this promotion disappeared despite crowds so sparse during the late season that you could learn the name of every other fan in the stadium by the end of the game if you were so inclined. This is emblematic of an ownership that has done little but alienate fans since arriving. The CSN Houston fiasco means few of us can even see the Astros on TV, making it easy to forget they even exist. Dynamic pricing makes it prohibitively expensive for Astros fans to go to the stadium to see a team with 3 consecutive 100+ loss seasons. At this point, the Astros should be paying us to go to games. At a minimum, they should be doing everything possible to encourage Astros fans to attend, not transplanted Yankees fans who will pay big dollars to see their team in one of the few times it plays here this season.

Putting it into perspective, if I buy 3 infield upper deck seats for opening day it will run me around $130. Figure another $100 for concessions and I have dropped $230 to go to a game and sit in seats where I need binoculars to tell the players apart. If I want to sit at field level, that is $450 for 3 tickets plus $100 for concessions or $550 total. That is more than what I pay for one of my Houston Dynamo season tickets. For that price, I get 20 games from a seat at midfield where I can see all of the action unfold in front of me and receive first class treatment from an organization that cares about its fans and generally has a very good relationship with them.

The Astros? They just seem to want to piss fans off. No thanks, Astros, I think I’ll keep giving my money to the Dynamo.

 

Follow House Of Houston - @HouseOfHouston

Follow Hal Kaiser - @MIBS98

Other  reads you might like:

Does CSN Houston Suck?

The Astrodome: National Treasure or Impending Implosion?

Tags: Houston Astros

  • marcusdoesurmom

    As much as I like to troll teams. There’s one thing that we need to understand. Baseball is a lot different than the NFL or NBA. It’s going to take time. Reid Ryan and his team are making changes. Notice how there’s no more billboards in left/center field? Ryan’s been doing a good job and know’s there’s a disconnection between the team and fan base. The Astros need to make money too. If you think dynamic pricing sucks, wait til they get good. I’ll deal with dynamic pricing. Why do I want to see the Astros play a good team? So I can see them get their ass whipped?

    • Hal Kaiser

      We are talking about a team that has lost 100+ games 3 seasons in a row. Odds are they are going to get their ass whipped by whatever team they play. Might as well have a chance to see a quality baseball team and league stars rather than watching them get whipped by some only slightly less crappy team. That is my logic, anyway.

      Winning doesn’t have to mean outrageous prices. Hate to bring up those guys to the north of us, but the Rangers have been contenders the last few seasons including two WS appearances, yet it is cheaper to go to a Rangers game than an Astros game. How does that make sense?

      My view is Crane overpaid for the Astros and has spent the last two seasons trying to squeeze dollars out of the team in any way he can, from a low overall payroll (which I am fine with, by the way, in the name of legitimate rebuilding), to the billboard thing (which they finally corrected) to jacking up ticket prices and to holding CSN Houston hostage for better carriage deals. As owner, he is welcome to do all of those things. As fans, we are welcome to sending him a message that he can take a flying leap (which is working to some degree already as indicated by backing off the team name change, removing the billboards and keep Tal’s Hill in place.

  • http://www.about.me/ksarkaria Kash

    I experienced the same thing as I went on to buy tickets to Astros vs Rangers and was appalled at the ticket prices. Every year when tix go on sale, I’ll usually buy great seats to 1 or 2 games early on. Usually end up going to 1-2 more games throughout the year as well. Now, I’m not buying any. Will wait for discounts later on in the year. From a business standpoint, they’re trying to maximize their gross margin by selling tickets that are more likely to be sold, for more. However, from a PR / Brand Equity standpoint, this is a very disappointing decision and it just continues to push fans away. The value you bring to the fans does not go unnoticed and can reap bigger dividends in the long run than this conception, unless they really are just trying to meet the year-end bottom line. But I doubt that.