Toronto Blue Jays restructure ticket pricing system

TORONTO – Season-ticket prices are rising an average of nine per cent next year for early-bird renewals as part of a wide-scale matrix restructuring the Toronto Blue Jaysunveiled Monday.

The 2017 home schedule will be split into a new five-category pricing system – A+, two games; A, 32 games; B, 20 games; C, 18 games; D, 9 games – replacing the old premium/regular designations the club used in recent years. The Rogers Centre’s seating plan has also been rescaled.

Unlike the price hikes that followed the 2014 and 2015 seasons, the new increases won’t be across-the-board, as the cost for an 81-game subscription will rise in some areas of the dome, and stay flat in others.

Still, season-ticket holders who renew during the early-bird period – which runs Monday through Sept. 8 – will see the cost of tickets for 54 games rising an average of 13 per cent, and for the remaining 27 games dropping seven per cent.

“The idea is it’s acknowledging that 81 games are not equal,” says Andrew Miller, the club’s executive vice-president of business operations. “Canada Day and opening day here, or a day like (Sunday) with a very popular promotion, may have a very different level of interest from fans than say a typical Tuesday night in April. All it’s trying to do is more appropriately match the values assigned to each of those games with the ticket prices.”

New game packs will be introduced in the coming weeks, with the pricing details for single-game tickets due early in 2017. With plans to increase the use of dynamic pricing for single-game tickets, the cost of attendance from day to day will vary based on a number of factors.

“They’ll all generally follow the same structure,” says Miller.

Which games end up in which category will be revealed next month when the 2017 baseball schedule is released. Opening day and Canada Day will be the two A+ games, with the A games likely to be heavy on summer weekends and premium teams. Weeknight games in April are likely to populate the D contests.

“For an individual ticket holder, (the price) depends on which game they’re purchasing and when they purchase them,” says Miller. “It’s not necessarily as simple as increase or stay the same.”

The new system is the most significant reworking of the club’s ticketing structure since the current set-up was introduced ahead of the 2010 season.

Blue Jays ticket prices remained unchanged until hikes ranging between 5-27.6 per cent on season subscriptions and 0.80-50 per cent on flex packs were put in place for the 2015 season.

This year, following the club’s first post-season appearance since 1993, prices rose an average of 10 per cent.

The new scheme is the result of “quite a bit of research and it’s very typical across the league, and even across Toronto sports to have this type of pricing structure,” says Miller. “I guess what I would say is it may be different from what was done in the past, but it’s very common across sports at this point. In the past, if we just used one average price, an average means there are some games that should be higher and some that should be lower. So the only thing we know about that average is that for the most part, we’re either overpricing a ticket or underpricing a ticket. What we’re trying to do now is make it more accurate in terms of aligning that price with the true value of the ticket for fans.”

The Blue Jays ranked eighth in the majors in attendance last year at 2,794,891, and this year are fourth with an average of 40,895 through 62 home dates, good for a total of 2,535,500.

Asked if the new pricing structure is expected to increase the revenue-per-ticket for the Blue Jays, Miller replied: “That’s hard to say. Our goal is make sure that we’re aligning value for the fans, so we’re trying to give more choice for some fans that may be selecting games that they otherwise wouldn’t have selected in different parts of the season.”