Monday, February 21, 2011

About 10% of Cubs Season Ticket Holders Had Enough Last Year

I've been pretty pessimistic about the Cubs since it became apparent that the Rickettseses weren't going to instill any major changes from the Tribune's methods in running things.  My willingness to renew my season tickets grew weaker and weaker with every passing day of last season, and they nailed the coffin shut when Tommy sent out his 8-million word letter explaining how we need to be patient and keep paying championship prices for a craptastic team.

Since then, the Cubs have periodically stated that season ticket renewals have been going swimmingly and that they are very pleased with the renewal rate.  The implication was that season tickets were still a hot item and thus single-game tickets would likewise sell extremely fast, so we better run out and buy packs of 13 or 6 ticket bundles to guarantee seeing at least one game that might have some interest.  Of course, the Cubs being the Cubs, they were always nebulous about exactly what rate the season tickets were renewing so we were left to speculate and guess.

Today, Patrick Mooney of CSNChicago.com got Wally Heyward to at least commit to a percentage range:

#Cubs marketing chief Wally Hayward says season-ticket renewal rate is above 90 percent.

Let me get out my Cubs B.S. Decoder Ring to translate that:

B-E-S-U-R-E-T-O-D-R-I-N-K-Y-O-U-R-O-V-A-L-T-I-N-E

A crummy commercial? Son of a bitch.

Actually, what it means is that somewhere between 2,500 and 2,700 seats went back to the Cubs and became available for the people who have been hanging around patiently on the waiting list.  Last year, the non-renewal rate was something like 2%.  This year, it is closer to 10%.  That is a lot for the Cubs and they can't be very happy about it.

I mean, it is still ridiculously high for a team that is no better now than it was last year and hasn't won anything since before World War I was fought, so they have that to be happy about.  Plus, the cushion of 118,000 people on the wait list to fill up those vacated seats means that they won't lose any revenue on season tickets this year.  But trend arrows pointing down isn't something for which they will be popping champagne corks.

And those trends are now clearly pointing down for the Cubs.  The honeymoon is over and patience is finally starting to show signs of maybe, possibly wearing thin with the fan base that Tom believed (and then convinced his Dad) would buy tickets win or lose.  Good luck turning around those kinds of trends with this team, Tom.

I'm sure Matt Garza will fix everything.

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UPDATE
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My anonymous friend in the comments reports that he has seen evidence that someone with a wait list number in the 10,000 range was called to purchase season tickets this winter.  That means the Cubs are getting about a 75% decline rate from the folks who have been waiting the longest to get tickets.  That's pretty bad.  Anyone else know of a higher number that got "The Call?"

Again, the Cubs have their buffer, so even though it took a decent hit, I don't expect the Cubs to change their strategy of telling fans to be patient as they pay the highest ticket price in baseball.

15 comments:

Bradley Woodrum said...

Good stuff McG. The Cubs FO needs to remember that every bit of research shows:

wins ---> attendance,

not the other way around. The present club has been beneficiary to the moderate success of the 2000s, but the 2010s must be equally or more successful in order to avoid a blue emptiness (i.e., unfilled seats).

[Side note: you might have a typo in the paragraph, saying the renewal rate is ~10% -- which would be a HUGE cause for concern.]

Aisle 424 said...

Yeah - I caught that just before seeing your comment. Fixed.

The Cubs do enjoy a buffer that other teams do not, however. That season ticket base and the waitlist gives them probably a few years of full-on suckage before they actually announce an attendance lower than 27,000.

But that doesn't mean people will use those tickets, and that means lots of lost revenue on beer, food and other crap they sell you when you walk in the ballpark.

Anonymous said...

I just got seasons this year. I figured I'd try it out for a year. If it's a craptastic season followed by an even more craptastic offseason, they'll be getting my seats back as well, no question.

Aisle 424 said...

Good luck to you! Do you mind if I ask what number you were on the wait list? Just curious to see how deep they had to go to fill the seats.

Anonymous said...

I was pretty low on the list, but on another site, some guy posted that he got an e-mail for Bleachers only at #10xxx. That was the highest number I've heard of being contacted.

Doc Blume said...

I think your numbers are a bit off here.

We have estimated that the number of seats that are reserved for season ticket holders is between 25k and 27k. But the total number of season ticket holders is considerably higher than that. If we assume the number of seats that belong to season ticket holders that have partial plans (the double play plan or combination plan) is at 1/3 of all the seats. Double play plan games and combination plan games are mutually exclusive meaning that those seats each belong to two season ticket holders.

As a result, your 2,500 to 2,700 number is probably closer to 3,300 to 3,600. I think my numbers are probably a bit conservative here, so that number may even be higher.

Needless to say, for the Cubs to put a positive spin on these numbers is just pathetic. These are bad numbers...plain and simple.

Kin said...

Well shit. I'm like 100000 on the list and I hope the rate of attrition slows down a bit or I won't be able to afford tix by the time it gets to me.

Eddie said...

The 10,000+ guy getting a call shouldn't be right. I'm in the 5,400 range right now, and I haven't heard from them.

Jeremy said...

Here is our math: There are between 26K-27K seats reserved for season ticket holders. The Cubs have about 7,500 season ticket accounts, at least they did when I asked a few months back. I put my name on the wait list 2 or 3 off-seasons ago and I could have sworn I was at 110,000. I just checked and I'm at 9,000.

Jeremy
TheWrigleyBlog

Aisle 424 said...

Doc, I think you're right about it being slightly more complicated, but since we don't know how many Daily or Combo plans are left out there, it's tough to guess, so I was staying conservative. They haven't sold the partial plans since 2003 (I think), so attrition and people upgrading to full plans has probably reduced the numbers pretty significantly as well.

Eddie, you should call the Cubs and see whats going on. That 10,000 number could be b.s. but it doesn't sound unplausible to me. I'm really curious to know how much the line is actually moving.

Anonymous said...

Eddie, you should have definitely heard from them. A guy who was #4564 and another guy around #7500 both got the call as well. Both for Bleacher packages only.

Look on the bright side, unless you wanted the mega-super-duper-overpriced Bleacher package, you didn't miss out on anything.

Anonymous said...

Jeremy, if you're really 9,000, you probably signed up right away when the list when live on Cubs.com in Oct. '06.

2-3 years ago would put you closer to 90,000.

Aisle 424 said...

Jeremy, they answered you when you asked how many accounts there were? They told me they don't make that information public.

I also asked the Astros and Red Sox about their season ticket base and got similar answers, so I stopped asking teams.

Doc Blume said...

The last year the sold the partial plans was 2004. I got my plan in 2003. I seemed to recall it being said that, at the time, about 50% of the season ticket holders were partial plan holders, but I could be wrong. Who knows now, though.

Jeremy, that's a very good point. The typical season ticket holder has 2 or 4 seats...that would make the waiting list rejection rate astronomical.

Jeremy said...

Maybe it was in 2006 when I got in line, I'm definitely in the 9,000's.
As for the insider information. I tagged along with a buddy while he was checking out his options to move the location of his season tickets. As we were standing there freezing our nuts off I asked the Cubs dude about how many seats were reserved. He shot off the 7,500 accounts number. That was a hard number. The actual reserved seats he said were 26K-27K. I was going to write up a post to our blog at some point, but never got around to it.

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