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Mariners bring back the Ballpark Pass, but miss the mark

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The monthly subscription service falls far short of what other franchises offer

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

If you were engaged with the team last season when things were still sunny, you might remember that the team introduced the Ballpark Pass for the month of July. For $98, a fan could access all 14 July home games, with seating assigned a few hours in advance of the game. While the upfront cost of over a hundred dollars (with tax) might have felt steep, that broke down to just $7 per game. It felt like a refreshing change of pace for a team that hasn’t exactly fostered a reputation for doing right by its fans. The Ballpark Pass wasn’t an original idea — several other teams had been offering a subscription service for a few years as a way to boost attendance — but it finally felt like the team was catching up.

While an official announcement has yet to come, it appears that the team will be offering the Pass for the entirety of 2019. Here are the quick and dirty details:

  • The Ballpark Pass is available for $99 per month, and it’s an auto-renewal subscription service. The per-game price will be $7.71.
  • Unlike last July’s Pass, seating will not be included with the Ballpark Pass. Tickets will be Standing Room Only.
  • The Pass will include tickets to every home game from April through September, including “premium” games, such as the Yankees series.
  • Notably, it will not include Opening Day, or any of the Red Sox games from the first series of the year, which takes place in March.
  • Subscribers will be able to upgrade their seats to seated tickets. At this time, the price of doing so is not clear, but will apparently be done through the Ballpark App, suggesting it may be a day-of item varying in price and availability.
  • Passes are non-transferable, so subscribers will not be able to re-sell their tickets as they would normal season tickets.

Since last year’s Ballpark Pass ended, many fans have been eagerly anticipating its return. This iteration, however, doesn’t just fall short of what this service should be. It feels like a personal affront to a long-suffering fan base that’s endured quite a bit over the past six months, let alone the past two decades.

What makes it fall so woefully short? Let’s dive in.

As I mentioned, the Mariners aren’t the only team to offer fans a subscription service like this. Here are all the teams currently offering a similar service, along with the cost of each.

Currently Offered Ballpark Passes

Franchise Monthly Price Type of Seating
Franchise Monthly Price Type of Seating
New York Yankees $50 SRO
Detroit Tigers $40 or $55 SRO or Upper Level
San Francisco Giants $30 SRO
Washington Nationals $65 SRO

There actually aren’t a lot of these offers out there right now, but a lot of them seem not to have been announced yet. For further context, here are the types of offers that other teams had last year.

Last Year’s Ballpark Passes

Franchise Price Type of Seating
Franchise Price Type of Seating
Miami Marlins $30/month SRO
Milwaukee Brewers $30/month SRO
San Francisco Giants $30/month SRO
Arizona Diamondbacks $80/40 games SRO
St. Louis Cardinals $30/month SRO
Los Angeles Angels $45/month, only offered May SRO
Minnesota Twins $99/two months, only April and May SRO
Oakland Athletics $30/month SRO
Chicago White Sox $49/month SRO

I am going to leave aside the argument that organizational success should correlate with ticket prices. I’m of the opinion that attending baseball games is a subjective experience, and that the quality of the experience isn’t always tied to the outcome of the game.

With that being said, we could compare these prices to any metric you’d like.

Organizational success? I don’t even have to say anything.

Average ticket prices compared with the price of this deal? The Mariners had the eighth-highest ticket prices in the league last year, and less than the Giants and Yankees, whose Ballpark Pass prices the Mariners at least double.

Median income of each team’s respective market? Take a look.

Ballpark Passes Prices vs. County Household Median Income

Franchise Monthly Price Median Household Income in County Price Per $10k Median Household Income
Franchise Monthly Price Median Household Income in County Price Per $10k Median Household Income
Seattle $99 $71,811 $13.79
Washington $65 $65,830 $9.87
Detroit $40 $41,184 $9.71
Chicago $49 $54,548 $8.98
Los Angeles $45 $55,909 $8.05
Minnesota $49.50 $64,403 $7.69
New York $50 $69,659 $7.18
Miami $30 $43,100 $6.96
Milwaukee $30 $43,193 $6.95
St. Louis $30 $46,517 $6.45
Oakland $30 $72,112 $4.16
San Francisco $30 $75,604 $3.97

King County is one of the wealthiest in the country, but even accounting for that, the Mariners’ $99 per month price is 40% higher than the next highest per-income price, Washington’s.

No matter the axis of comparison, any comparison of this Pass to another franchise’s makes the Mariners’ offer look awful.

Of course, the Mariners don’t need to compete against these teams. It’s not like Mariner fans are going to be traveling to different cities and purchasing other teams’ Ballpark Passes. What the Mariners are concerned about is how these tickets will sell — and how the tickets sell will depend on how good the deal is is comparison to other Mariner tickets.

As of right now, the cheapest seats to a Mariner game are in the center field bleachers. Depending on the game, prices to these seats range from $15 per game (for “Mariners Value Games”, usually mid-week night games against non-premium opponents) to $20 per game for higher-demand games.

From that perspective, the tickets are a screaming deal. If you purchase all five months of the Ballpark Pass and attend each of the 77 home games included, you will pay $7.71 per game. Of course, this is a strictly worse ticket than a bleacher seat — you don’t get a seat at all. And all of that is also ignoring the fact that the Mariners’ ticket prices are already inflated compared to those of other franchises.

With a Standing Room Only ticket, a fan’s options for watching the game will pretty much be limited to The Pen and Edgar’s Cantina. If you arrive early, it’s easy to get a decent view at either one, but even then, you’re going to be surrounded by people. If you want to retain your view, you’ll have to stand in one place for the duration of the game. Maybe it’s time to invest in a catheter. Thanks, Stadium Pal!

Just to get into the ballpark, the per-game price is good. And I’ll admit, there are many fans that spend all game in The Pen anyway. The target demographic for subscriptions like this is people in their mid 20’s, and I would guess that’s the same target demographic as that of The Pen. For these fans, if they go to 7 or more games per month, the Pass makes all the sense in the world.

Unfortunately, mid-20’s fans who attend 7 or more Mariner games per month and spend the entire game in The Pen seems like an extremely narrow demographic. For an organization that has the longest postseason drought in all of American professional sports and is coming off an a tumultuous off-season from a PR standpoint, the Mariners framing the Ballpark Pass as a fantastic deal feels out of touch at best, and exclusionary at worst.

As of right now, the Mariners have offered their fans a deal that is a questionable value by itself for all but a narrow demographic, and a laughably insulting value when compared to similar offers from other teams, to spend large amounts of their free time watching a team with no All-Star second baseman, no world-beating closer, no no-hitting Canadian starting pitcher, and no hilariously muscular designated hitter. The product is unquestionably inferior to last year’s, and the team has all but admitted that it won’t contend, but the Mariners still expect their fans to pay more than the fans of any other team in baseball.

I wish the team would do better.