Q&A WITH DAVE HOWARD ABOUT 2011 METS TICKET PRICES.

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The last thing I expected today was to get an email from the Mets inviting me to join a blogger conference call with – of all people – Dave Howard – on the subject of the 2011 ticket prices. Luckily, as is my wont, I have been obsessing over this since the information was leaked earlier this week, so it was easy to pull together some questions.

I will start by telling all of my partial plan readers – I have no news for you. They have not finalized that information yet. This, of course, eliminated half of the questions on my list. But there was still good data.

It was stressed to us that we, the bloggers, were getting 25 minutes, which was the same amount of time allotted to the beat writers and to Mike Francesa.

Dave opened with some introductory remarks: “”This is a first for me and I’m excited to do it, because you are truly the voice of the fans, and you have an important part of communicating with Mets fans in terms of what’s going on around the team.” He went on to say that he appreciated our passion, and that he felt that there was a more active blogging community around the Mets as compared to the Yankees. I don’t see that as necessarily true — I hang out on Twitter with a bunch of Yankees bloggers, and haven’t felt as though they have less of a presence online than we do — but I could be wrong.

There was a summary of what you’ve already heard – that, “on average,” ticket prices were reduced by 14%, with a 10% reduction over face value for both season ticket and partial plan holders. He talked about the perks for early payment – the “Amazin’ Mets Perks“. Basically, if you 1) pay in full and 2) renew early, you become eligible to win daily rewards. The prizes are actually pretty cool – a visit by Mr. Met, watch a 2011 game from a VIP box with Sandy Alderson, meet the new Mets manager, throw out a first pitch, bring out the lineup cards, player meet-and-greet, spring training trip, a player fielding session – despite what Francesa said on his show today. (I was going to link to more information on mets.com, but the prizes aren’t all listed there. I’ll put them at the end of this post..)

I agree 100% that these are fantastic opportunities, and Howard said that initial response was positive and that the phone lines had been ringing off the hook since they were announced – but there is part of me that wonders about asking for so much money before the holidays in the current economy. I understand that people make choices about what’s important, but people who felt confident about allotting that kind of money this far in advance in the past might not feel as confident doing so today.

I asked the first question (because I have a big mouth and little or no fear of making a fool of myself), which was: Did MLB’s partnership with StubHub provide the Mets with data regarding secondary market ticket sales, and did they use that information in arriving on price points for 2011?

“Yes, that information is available to us, and it’s very helpful information, and it was an important part of the analysis, and we were monitoring that information throughout the year. It was really interesting, when you looked at that information, it was amazing to us how many ticket categories were selling above face value throughout most of the year.”

Rob from Amazin’ Avenue asked about the fact that the ticket prices for the Promenade Reserved and Promenade Reserved Infield had actually been *increased*. Howard responded, “The secondary market for the Promenade level showed that those tickets were – again – selling substantially above face for essentially the entire year,” and that they felt as a result they could increase the price. He felt that the price increase was “modest” and that it still represented a value, especially to season ticket and plan holders who would benefit from th 10% discount. He also pointed out that while there were 10 Value games last year, that there were now 30.

He was very positive regarding Sandy Alderson: “He’s the real great hope to get things turned around.”

Shannon from Mets Police (who Dave Howard openly admitted to reading!) asked about the weekend plan disparity we all know and hate. Howard responded, “It’s really the function of going to a smaller building, [at Shea] you could whack it up so you’re doing 13 game plans, Sunday only, because you had so much more inventory to work with. It’s a balance, and we’re doing our best to strike it, and we haven’t yet finalized the plans, but I think we’ll have that shortly. We hear what you’re saying and we’re trying your best to balance this and make plans available for people that they will and enjoy.”

Greg from Faith & Fear in Flushing asked about club access for plan holders – the point being that the people who have committed all that money up front should have access to some indoor area, no matter how much they are spending. (I have always found it irksome that someone in the Left FIeld Landing had Promenade Club access, but I did not.) Howard replied that “We have heard that – we would like to do that, we would like to recognize that our plan holders are very loyal customers and fans,” but the primary concern appears to be capacity. It’s a valid one, absolutely, but I think there could be something provided – whether it was a set number of vouchers to use during the year, so that you could decide, on a cold night, or a night where there was a rain delay, to use the club – or some other way to fairly provide a level of access concordant with your ticket commitment.

There was a question regarding the pricing on Fridays being lower than the pricing for Saturdays and Sundays. Howard said that it was “A matter of peak demand vs offpeak demand. the primary factors are the time of year, and clearly the summer months when school lets out is peak – Saturday and Sunday tend to be bigger than Fridays. The other factor is the opponent, which can swing things one way or the other.” Greg Prince asked if there was any concern that they were pricing out families.

Howard’s response was that “everyone values things very personally and subjectively, people do balance whether it’s more important to go Saturday or Sunday, or to get the lower priced ticket. It’s all a question of what’s most important to them,” but that the concern about making the games affordable for families was one they always considered. “We are a franchise that is founded on kids and family, It’s been a hallmark of the Mets from the very beginning.” We were then treated to a story of Dave Howard’s first game at Shea, in 1965. To be fair, the journalist in me was thinking “I could ask six more questions in this time span” but – and yes, I’m sure it was deliberate – it definitely painted a more human picture of Dave Howard than I have ever had from listening to him before.

That was all I managed to type – to be honest, it was a combination of “these are the things I care about” and “I know everyone else on this call will blog it.” So I suggest you check out Mets Police, Amazin Avenue, Faith & Fear, On The Black, New York Baseball Digest and NJ.com’s Mets Fan Blog (and probably others who didn’t ask a question on the call or didn’t Tweet about it so I didn’t know they were there).

Finally, I will be truthful that I am leaving out the part where Dave Howard interjected, “And Caryn, I just wanted to address – we did not eliminate the perk regarding no service fees for additional tickets bought by plan holders, I thought I saw you mention something about that recently,” and I tell you that I am not sure at what point in my life I suddenly became someone who sits on conference calls with the Executive Vice President of Baseball Operations for the New York Mets and whose random Twitter comments are reviewed by executive staff as something they should pay attention to. I know I have not been the most complimentary towards Dave Howard on this blog. I give you my word that I am not going to start becoming all revisionist history on the blog just because we have access now.

I have always said that the number one thing I would ask Dave Howard, if I ever met him, was: “Why do you hate fans so much?” I feel like they’re hating us a little less right now. One thing is very clear: The Mets have heard us, the fans. They are listening. Maybe we have backed them into a corner (combined with the on-field performance [or rather, lack thereof] of the past few years). Maybe they’ve just decided that it’s good business. Maybe they hope to (partially) shut us up or tone us down. I don’t care very much; the access is fantastic and I look forward to more of it in the future. Don’t get me wrong, going on field for batting practice is fantastic, but this is the kind of useful, actionable, substantial activity I’ve hoped we’d have access to.

So much for taking things easy during the offseason.

AMAZIN’ METS PERKS – 30 DAYS OF DAILY AWARDS:

  1. Mr. Met Appearance: Mr. Met will attend your local event
  2. Announce the starting lineups
  3. Home plate umpire’s conference (bring out lineup card)
  4. Welcome Home Dinner – two VIP tickets with priority placement for autographs
  5. Pepsi Party Patrol – be an honorary member for one game
  6. SNY Studio Visit – VIP meet & greet
  7. Play Catch on the field before a home game
  8. Seaver wine tasting
  9. Press level visit with Mets GM
  10. Junior Mets reporter – your child interviews a player before a game, it’s shown on Citi Vision and you get a DVD
  11. Honorary Bat Boy/Girl
  12. Game-worn Jersey
  13. Meet the new Mets Manager – “talk baseball with the manager in his office, visit the dugout, and watch batting practice from the field”
  14. Honorary First Pitch
  15. Meet Mr. Met – behind the scenes meeting with Mr. Met before a home game. Meet Mr. Met outside his dressing room, photo op.
  16. Spring Training trip: a trip for two to PSL. Flight, 2-night hotel stay, premium seating for 2 games.
  17. Road Game trip: trip for 2 to a 2011 Mets road game. Transportation, 2 night hotel stay, 2 field level boxes.
  18. Suite party – for 16, with a $750 food and beverage credit (alcoholic beverages not included!)
  19. Press Conference – attend a press conference
  20. Personalized Autographed Bat
  21. Personalized Autographed jersey
  22. Team Store Shopping Spree ($500)
  23. Player meet-and-greet
  24. Player Fielding Session: “Recieve one-on-one fielding instruction from a current Mets player.”
  25. Indoor Batting Practice: “Receive batting tips from a current Mets coach in a 30 minute group hitting session in the indoor batting cages”
  26. Bullpen Pitching Session: “Receive pitching tips from a current Mets coach in a 30-minute group pitching session from the Citi Field bullpen mound.”
  27. High Five Players: “Cheer on the Mets players up close and personal on the field and give the high fives as they leave the dugout to take the field before a 2011 home game.”
  28. VIP Press Level Visit with Mets Alumni: “View a home game from a VIP catered box with a former Mets player. They will visit you and your group during the game.”
  29. Take the Field: “Take the field and meet a Mets player at his position”
  30. Autographed magnum of Tom Seaver’s wine

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