A Lesson in Supply and Demand

OK, not quite a million for the tickets, but still pricey

I just received the annual email from the Washington Capitals to renew season tickets for the 2010-11 season.

This year’s increase in price? Approximately 32%.


Yes, the Caps’ current ticket prices—particularly for my seats in the front row of the upper deck—are not only significantly discounted from face value, but quite a bargain by league standards. According to The New York Times, 20 NHL teams charged more, on average, for tickets than the Capitals did in 2009-10.

Nonetheless, it was a bit of a shock seeing the new total invoice amount in a painfully-enlarged lump-sum. Marketing suggestion: since the per-ticket price is not provided anyway (it required math… “It was my understanding that there would be no math”), why not proffer the bill in easier-to-digest monthly payment amounts? It’d be no less frustrating than obfuscating the individual ticket price, and it would be much be easier on fans’ hearts.

One must admit that this increase, while a bit breathtaking at first, is actually reasonable. After all, aren’t the Washington Capitals the hottest ticket in town? Sure, demand jumps even higher for marquee opponents (Pittsburgh, Detroit, Philly, etc.); but no matter the opponent, D.C. is craving Caps games. One needs look no further than the team’s impressive streak of sold-out home games reaching back to last season’s playoffs… something previously unimaginable for a hockey team in Washington.

As a side note, not all ticket holders received quite the sticker shock I did. For instance, a friend in Section 104 faced the same dollar increase I did… which translates to a much more palatable 14% increase for him.

Even after these increases, the Caps’ 2010-11 season ticket price increase will bring their average price up to approximately the 2009-10 league average — in other words, roughly a middle-of-the-pack ticket price for a top-of-the-pack team.

So yes, after recovering from the initial shock, I’ll be re-upping for season tickets. After all, the chance to see the most exciting team in the NHL play 41+ times a year is a rare and wonderful opportunity, and one worth a premium price even during tough economic times.

Let us hope, however, that this year’s big increase remains an aberration — a one-time “market adjustment” to bring prices more in line with demand — in the Caps’ overall ticket-price history. The last thing the Caps (or their supporters) need is to price out loyal fans and fill the arena with cellphone-talking corporate types who kill the amazing energy level at the games.

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23 Responses to A Lesson in Supply and Demand

  1. heather says:

    I, too, was a bit shocked at the price. We’re still renewing but yowsers. It equaled out to an additional $14 a game for us…definitely a decent hit.

    That being said, there’s nothing I love more than being there cheering on the Caps! And with the possibility of not always living in the area, I’m gonna eat it up while I can! (Though I am hoping to move down at select a seat!)

  2. Nicole says:

    I was more than shocked. It adds up to more than $650 MORE per year for us, that’s a big chuck of change. It feels as though they are taking advantage of the fact that people are lining up behind us to take our seats if we decide not to renew. I’m still debating…

  3. Chris says:

    Strange. I don’t recall them LOWERING prices when tickets were barely worth the paper they were printed on. Even when their labor costs went down and the Caps were in the basement, the prices remained the same. I must just be hallucinating, though, because surely a team wouldn’t leave prices as-is in lean times but then jack the prices up when they begin winning only to claim we’re now getting more value.

  4. @ Chris: Actually the Caps did signficantly lower ticket prices… when Ted Leonsis first purchased the team, season ticket prices decreased significantly. IIRC my seats were something like $12 per game back then when buying the full season. There was a big bump up the year after bringing Jagr onboard, but even then the tix were well below the NHL average.

    Now I’m not completely defending this increase. Like Nicole, the big per-year increase was a bit shocking, and many folks will have to take a hard look at their finances before renewing.

    But her second point, about people lined up waiting for season tickets, is actually a very salient point. Demand has spiked hugely for Caps tickets; Leonsis would be foolish not to adjust his business model accordingly — and Leonsis is clearly no fool when it comes to business practices.

    All that said, one would hope the organization continues to value its long-time supporters, those who were there through the lean times. That means things like great season ticketholder perks (more than a lithograph, which frankly is a glorified poster) and, more importantly, by ensuring this year’s huge price increase is a one-time thing.

  5. Christopher says:

    Do you WORK for the team? You sound almost pleased by the increase. Wish I was in THAT kind of position…

  6. @ Christopher: Seriously? Not at all pleased by the increase. Who would be? But I understand it, as further explained in my comment above.

  7. Howdy says:

    It’s understandable from a pure dollars perspective; the vastly increased percentage of seats held by season ticketholders means that even with every game sold out, their margins have dropped drastically this season.

    Bit of a sticker shock, to be sure, but still one of the best deals in town, IMO. I’ll be renewing today.

  8. amberlynne says:

    From what I understand, even with the hugely successful last year, the team still presents a loss to the owners. So if they can get more money out of us, why wouldn’t they? Yeah, it sucks. But it’s still a business.

    Besides, someone has to pay for the rest of Nylander’s salary.

  9. capsfan7 says:

    how can we complain about an increase? Do Ted and the Caps not deserve to be in the middle of the pack industry-wide? he’s been working toward this legitimacy for a decade. obviously everything he’s been doing has been a process of ramping up

    and no, I don’t work for the team–

  10. Adam says:

    Nicole, what a crazy idea you present. Are you trying to tell me that Capital’s management, seeing that there team is ultra popular and extremely good, is raising prices to take advantage of their new-found popularity?
    Anyway, you people have no reason to complain. Imagine paying for season tickets to watch the Islanders play 41 games a year (like I do). I will switch places with you and gladly pay the 14 extra dollars per game (which in your case is almost always a win).

  11. C2 says:

    If you can’t save $1000 in extra cash from Apr-Sept you’ve got a lot bigger worries then how you’re going to attend 41 games and you should be using the entire cost of your tickets for something your family actually needs. Remember, it’s a middle of the pack price for a top-notch team. Just think if Toronto had a team like the Caps. $1000 a seat for one game in the lower bowl at least!!

  12. Chris meet Alex says:

    My seats in 101 had the modest 9% increase that they’ve had the last few years, and I’ll trade the increase in price (especially since they are still a deal) for the quality that’s on the ice today (and in the near future) happily! Just as a comparison, I looked at the cost of my seats for a Wizards game and they are more than double (which is more than $100 more expensive than my own)… so I’m really happy with the price.

    BTW, they have the tickets broken down by price if you look at the Information area (just not in the area you see once you’re logged into your account). It’s a little confusing since they don’t have a link to this area from inside your account.


    The PDF on the top there has everything broken down any way you would want it.

  13. @ CMA: Thanks very much for the PDF link… I’m sure we’ll be receiving it in the mail soon but it’s nice to see it right away.

    On a side note, it’s reassuring to see that my calculations yielded the correct ticket cost. 🙂

  14. Mike says:

    As a front row upper decker, I’m a little disappointed in the ~32% increase in STH price. It would be nice, since they’re taking the time to go back and review the length of the STH account holdings, to factor that into the price increases – I’d have no problem with them giving HOF STH (25+ years) a 15% discount off the increased prices, MVP (12-24 yrs as STH) a 7.5% discount, All-Star (6-11 yrs) 5% and First Lines and Rookies pay the full freight. Or selected First Lines (those who have been STHs more than three years) a bit of a discount.

    There used to be actual benefits (ticket exchange program) during the season for STH, and while TicketExchange (by Ticketmaster) is a convenient way to sell or transfer tickets, I am a bit annoyed that Ticketmaster (which, by the way, WS&E owns the Washington Franchise for) makes 25% on the sale of my tickets and charges me to send a freakin’ email that they don’t have to do anything on, it was nice to be able to exchange unused (or unusable) tickets for a later game. Obviously, with the string of sellouts, that’s no longer a feasible option. There were also the free tickets to a selected game during the year, but those, too, have gone away. Now we just pay and pay and enjoy the games.

  15. Grooven says:

    I may be mistaken, but didn’t ticket prices go down at the start of the rebuild too?

  16. Cathy W says:

    I too am a front row upper deck. Got the packet in the mail and putting the DC tax as a separate line item on the invoice does not reduce the sticker shock. I’ve read more chatter of people saying they will have to sell games to afford the cost. I would not be surprised to see the secondary market more saturated next year and more opposing fans at games. As for Adam’s comments, I did pay for Caps season tickets when the team at the bottom of the league but that does not make me feel any better about this price increase. With a wait list, we can all be replaced by newer, richer fans so I doubt that the Caps give two hoots if any long time STHs get priced out as the replacements are already lined up.

  17. @ GROOVEN: Y’know, that’s how I remembered it too, but I wasn’t 100% sure so I didn’t say so in my first comment. 🙂 But I think you’re right — after the fire sale, ticket prices dropped (not all the way to pre-Jagr prices, but definitely a decrease).

  18. Pingback: Cheap Seats Daily: Who Says Ted Leonsis = Dan Snyder? - City Desk - Washington City Paper

  19. Joe says:

    I wish they would actually win a Cup before they stick it to the fans. That would be much more palatable.

  20. Jim Balsillie says:

    The Washington Capitals have never turned a profit operating in Washington DC since the 1974-1975 season. This information was in the Toronto Globe & Mail this past fall. Ted Leonsis has stated over the past few years that he has lost more than $100 million dollars since he gained control in 1998. Ticket price hikes of 32% is the only way Ted Leonsis is going to get some of his money back as well as test what the market is willing to pay for a sport not traditional to Washington DC area. Remember,Canadian cities like Hamilton, Winnipeg and Quebec City would love to have the Capitals as their team.

  21. Those operating losses will be dramatically reduced, if not removed, after Ted gains control of the Verizon Center where the Capitals are currently just a tenant.

  22. Dougeb says:

    Section 404, row C. A 33% increase — big, but we’re still in for next year. Simply, it’s the consequences of success.
    That said, if they add the same increase for next year, we’re out of the mix.

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