CLEVELAND -- As the summer hits its stride and interest increases in an Indians team hanging tough in the American League Central, so, too, does attention on the Progressive Field experience.
The Indians have found themselves fielding a number of questions regarding their ticket pricing structure, which has changed from years past and caused some confusion.
What the Indians are attempting to stress to their fans is the value that can be gleaned from advanced purchases and paperless ticket options. There are multiple seating categories in the ballpark in which ticket prices for the Tribe's remaining home games are equal or less than what they were last season, but fans have to know how and when to find them.
"For single-game tickets," said Bob DiBiasio, the Indians' senior vice president of public affairs, "you will almost always receive lower prices on better seats if you buy online, in advance and choose FanPass or print-at-home as your delivery method."
FanPass is the paperless ticket system the Indians have created to allow the electronic transfer of tickets from team to fan and fan to fan. The "tickets" are applied to fans' credit cards, which are swiped at the gate, thereby saving both the cost of paper tickets and the time of waiting at the box office.
The savvy fan can still secure Tribe tickets for as low as $10 a pop if they adapt to the FanPass procedure and commit early. For every game, the best price in the house is in the Upper Bleacher section ($10), which must be purchased online. As of this writing, those tickets were still available for 36 of the Tribe's 42 remaining home games. For paperless purchases made now, the following categories are also equal or lower priced than a year ago: Field Box Back (37 of remaining 42 games), Lower Reserved (23 of remaining 42) and Mezzanine (27 of remaining 42).
"Our goal," said team president Mark Shapiro, "is to provide fans with the best seats at the best value."
In their attempts to reach that goal, the Indians have placed greater emphasis on the lower bowl, which makes sense in terms of both appearance (read: how it looks on TV) and practicality. There is, after all, a higher percentage of ushers, staffers and concession workers devoted to the lower sections.
"There are lower prices on better seats in the mezzanine, lower reserved and bleachers," DiBiasio said. "These sections tend to sell out early, so we encourage fans to buy early and save."
As of this writing, there were nearly 500,000 tickets available for remaining games at $20 or less -- an average of nearly 10,000 per game.
Meanwhile, Upper Reserved tickets are currently priced at $21 or less for the remaining home games for those who buy in advance and choose FanPass. While day-of-game ticket prices for the Upper Reserved section are very much in line with the rest of the industry, prices of those paper tickets bought at the box office will be relatively higher than those bought using the advanced, paperless method. By comparison, MLB's top three teams in single-game tickets sold per game this season are the Rockies, D-backs and Brewers, and their equivalent seating area for recent weekend games was $28, $25 and $24, respectively, for tickets purchased online.
The entire upper bowl sections are priced the same in 2013 and are sold starting from the sections closest to home plate and progressing out toward the outfield corners as those sections fill up. This allows the Indians to ensure those areas are adequately staffed.
Several years back, the Indians went to a value-based ticket pricing structure in which games were divided into various categories of interest. Games against the Yankees featured higher price points than those against, say, the Royals. Weekend games were priced higher than weekday games. It's a model an increasing number of teams in MLB and elsewhere have employed.
This season, the team has tried to take that concept a step further, and it's clear their goal is to give themselves a better idea of expected attendance on a given night by way of rewarding those who commit the earliest and adopt to the more modern methods of ticket distribution.
"Fans purchasing tickets in advance are able to avoid long walkup lines on gameday," said DiBiasio, "and they also give the Indians the ability to provide better service for our fans by being better prepared for the number of fans coming to the ballpark."
For more on Tribe tickets, pricing and promotion, click here.
Anthony Castrovince is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and follow him on Twitter at @Castrovince.