Over the years, as the ticket prices for many sporting events have skyrocketed and various surcharges, such as PSLs, have been tacked on, some of us have wondered when fans will say enough is enough, forcing prices downward. The answer, thus far, has been: Not for some time yet. A small percentage dump their season ticket packages, but there are always others out there (people as well as corporations, who in the sports context are people, my friend) who will gladly pay whatever it takes to make it through the turnstiles.
Finally, though, a large group of fans has said enough is enough, and fortunately for the sports industry at large, it's not a team or league that is having to deal with the fallout. News out of New York is that Bronx Parking Development Company, which operates lots around Yankee Stadium, has defaulted on nearly $240 million worth of bonds because its projections of lot usage have turned out to be wildly overstated. According to a story in today's New York Times, the nearly 9,300 spaces have been just 43 percent full on game days, leading to a shortfall in 2012 alone of $767,000.
What would solve the problem? The company says a voluntary restructuring by bondholders - meaning that they would have to accept less than they are owed on the company's bonds - is necessary. But the simpler method, according to economists as well as fans, is to cut prices, which are as high as $58 per game, leading fans to opt for public transportation or lower-priced parking, including free on-street spaces within walking distance of the stadium.
Sadly, the city provided more than $200 million in subsidies to convert parkland into lots, and is owed $25.5 million in rent and payments in lieu of taxes accumulated since 2007. On the plus side, an average of around 4,100 fans rode Metro North trains to weekend games this season, easing traffic around the stadium and burning less fossil fuels, both of which please city planners, local residents and environmentalists.
The team is unaffected either way - this time around, anyway. This must be a relief as, since the new $1.5 billion stadium opened in April 2009, few teams have found their pricing structure under as much scrutiny as have the Yankees. Seats in the Legends Suite, which occupies the first eight rows in the lower bowl, were initially priced at an average of $510 apiece, with the highest-priced seat at $2,600 a game. But these high-visibility seats have gone consistently unfilled, an embarrassment for the team, and are increasingly available on the secondary market for as low as $200. Under these circumstances, Bronx Parking Development Company probably ought to heed the advice of its former customers.
"The whole thing is supply and demand," one fan who parked for free on the street last week told the Times' Ken Belson. "If they charged $20, the lots would fill up."