Odd patterns have been forming inside New York’s two shiny new baseball stadiums, ones not seen in years. Clumps of empty blue and green seats are painfully obvious because many of them are in the best sections or right behind home plate, while fans are concentrated in the more remote parts of Yankee Stadium and Citi Field.
After spending $2.3 billion on new stadiums packed with suites, restaurants and the latest technology, the Mets and the Yankees expected fans to embrace their new homes and pay top dollar for the privilege. Almost every team that has built a new stadium in the recent past has seen an immediate surge in attendance.
Instead, the Mets and the Yankees face a public relations nightmare and possibly millions of dollars in lost revenue after failing to sell about 5,000 tickets — including some of the priciest seats — to each of their first few games after last week’s openers.
The empty seats are a fresh sign that the teams might have miscalculated how much fans and corporations were willing to spend, particularly during a deep recession. Whatever the reason, the teams are scrambling to comb over their $295- to $2,625-a-seat bald spots.
“I’m sure they’re thinking, ‘It’s just April,’ ” Jon Greenberg, executive editor of the Team Marketing Report, said of the lack of sellouts. “But it’s lost revenue they anticipated getting. This is the worst possible time to debut a stadium.”
The teams are loath to cut prices for fear of alienating existing ticket-holders. Letting fans from other sections move to the premium seats behind home plate and above the dugouts could backfire in the same way.
“But it doesn’t look good,” said Maury Brown, president of the Business of Sports Network, a research Web site. “It’s the Yankees, not the Nationals. On television, it stands out like a big sore thumb.”
Hal Steinbrenner, the Yankees’ general managing partner, said recently that “small amounts of our tickets might be overpriced.”
Still, the teams are trying to drum up sales. The Yankees have hired Douglas Elliman Worldwide Consulting, which promotes and markets real estate projects for developers, to sell premium seats to high-end residential customers. The team has also extensively advertised the availability of the high-priced seats, and invited potential buyers to visit the Stadium at a Select-a-Seat weekend last month.
The Mets have suffered the indignity of watching a court-appointed trustee sell the two season tickets bought by Bernard L. Madoff, the financier who admitted to running a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that counted the team’s principal owner, Fred Wilpon, as one of its victims.
An auction for the seats concluded on eBay Tuesday night, with the winning bid coming in at $38,100, considerably below their face value.
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