As the Pittsburgh Pirates trek deeper into August and remain legitimate contenders for a National League playoff spot, the front office has the happy task of preparing for the possibility of the first playoff games at PNC Park. That means becoming more familiar with the thick postseason manual that Major League Baseball issues early in the year.
"This year, I'm very pleased to have to go through it," Pirates president Frank Coonelly said.
As part of those preparations, the Pirates released information on 2012 postseason ticket procedures and prices on Friday, as well as ticket pricing for the 2013 regular season.
The Pirates' current full-season, 41-game and 20-game season-ticket holders will receive information on both topics in the mail early this week. They will also get first priority for postseason tickets, and be offered the greatest value on those: a discount ranging from 16 to 30 percent over individual postseason ticket prices.
"We will take care of -- and want to reward the loyalty of -- our season-ticket holders," Coonelly said. "Those are the fans that have been with us through thick and thin -- and far too much thin -- so we're providing them with additional benefits. We want to reward the people who have supported us all these years."
Current Pirates season-ticket holders will be able to buy the same number of postseason ticket strips as there are seats in their account, as well additional strips equal to the number of seats in their plan, or a maximum of four additional strips per account.
Fans who are not current season-ticket holders, but put a deposit down toward a 2013 full-season, 41-game or 20-game plan, will also receive postseason priority. The difference is they will be able to purchase playoff strips at the individual ticket prices.
Individual tickets for each round of the postseason will be made available to the public at a date in late September to be determined, beginning with the sale of tickets for the Wild Card game and the NL Division Series. Tickets for the NL Championship Series and the World Series will go on sale to the public at later dates.
Major League Baseball provides clear guidelines regarding how a ballpark can be priced for postseason play through the end of the LCS, and must approve the pricing set forth by each contending club. MLB, however, dictates solely the prices for World Series tickets. According to Coonelly, the Pirates made a concentrated effort to keep their postseason tickets as affordable as possible within those guidelines.
"We're -- along with Oakland -- toward the end of the spectrum, and considerably less than some teams that have made the postseason more often, or their regular-season prices are so much higher than ours," Coonelly said.
The Pirates also announced Friday that their average ticket price for the 2013 season will once again be among the lowest in Major League Baseball. Their average ticket price of $16.11 in 2012 was the third lowest in the Majors, according to Team Marketing Report. The new average ticket price for next season will be $17.21, which is still 36 percent below the 2012 Major League Baseball average price of $26.98.
Prior to the 2012 campaign, the Pirates had not raised their ticket prices in 10 years, which is unheard of in professional sports.
"We knew we needed to move ourselves closer to the industry norm -- and particularly to our division opponents like St. Louis, like Milwaukee, like Cincinnati -- but we weren't going to attempt to make up for 10 years in one year," Coonelly said. "Instead, we put together a plan that would move us toward where the industry had moved over the past 10 years.
"And just like we didn't attempt to get there in one step, we're not attempting to get there now in our second step. We certainly took into account that these fans have supported us for many years, and we're not going to attempt to take advantage of that support."
For the 2013 season, the Pirates will designate Opening Day and all Saturday home games as premium games. Similar to variable pricing models that have been utilized throughout baseball for years, tickets for designated premium games will be priced slightly higher based on their higher demand. The 10 Saturday games at PNC Park this season have averaged 36,393 fans, and eight of those games have been sellouts.
"We stuck our toe in the water for 2012 on a dynamic pricing model out in Bleacher [General Admission]," Pirates executive vice president and chief marketing officer Lou DePaoli said.
In making both announcements, the Pirates emphasized how firmly they believe their season-ticket holders should continue to receive the best value in the ballpark.
In fact, for 2013, full-season plan holders will save between 14 and 50 percent relative to individual prices, and an average of 27 percent. In addition, more than half of the Pirates' full-season tickets can be purchased for less than $25 per ticket, and more than 35 percent for less than $15 per ticket.
"We are again being more aggressive in terms of individual prices, and less aggressive in terms of our season-ticket pricing," Coonelly said. "So, the gap between what season-ticket holders pay and what fans pay for an individual game continues to grow. Another benefit to being a season-ticket holder for the Pittsburgh Pirates is that you get the best value at the ballpark, and we think that makes sense."
Even though the Pirates will have to fight over 40 more battles on the field down the stretch in August and September, and club officials know securing a postseason berth won't be easy, they were still very pleased to be able to send out packages that contain information about playoff tickets.
"Our fans have waited too long for a letter like the one they're going to receive. They deserve that letter," Coonelly said. "From Day 1, when they reported to Spring Training, the players were intent and focused on putting themselves and the organization in a position to give our fans postseason baseball for the first time in 20 years.
"We're in that position to bring it home. It will be a lot of fun from here on in."