I finally was able to catch my ticket rep on the phone last week and renew my season tickets for 2011. I had a number of additional questions to ask him that spawned some interesting conversation. Below are some notes from that conversation with my own thoughts sprinkled in...
I didn't realize it before, but with 32,000 season ticket holders, there are literally only about 4,500 additional seats not covered by season tickets. It turns out that a chunck of those (probably more than half) are sold through group sales leaving only a precious few available for single game ticket sales.
I invited a buddy to a game in early 2009 and he turned around and bought a half-season package that year (and is a season ticket holder now). Those half season packages were not offered in 2010 and I asked why. They seem like a good alternative to the cost of a full season package that some folks would be interested in. The short answer (my summary) is that they are not offered because the club doesn't need to. They can fill all the space they make available with season ticket holders and group sales.
Read on for more on the Hawks Nest, a quick inspection of our supply/demand ratio, and a possible theory on exactly why the friendly is priced at $77...
My ticket rep confirmed that opening up the Hawks Nest does indeed have contractual implications with Microsoft advertising but didn't go into details. That said, opening it up would complete the entire lower bowl of Qwest Field. Since the seats are in the lower bowl, demand would likey be higher for them than for the currently available upper bowl seats (even though those are all inclusive). The fact that Joe Roth has mentioned the Hawks Nest as well means I think we can expect that to open up next year unless the season ticket holder count stays the same or goes down (unlikely).
I've been asking myself this question for while: How in love are we with the words "sell out"? How good is it for marketing, the press, etc. that the Sounders have sold out every league home game? There is a certain allure to sell outs where people who don't go (or can't go) may feel like they are missing out. How important is a sell out to our marketing strategy and therefore how willing would the be to jeopardize selling out in the name of making more tickets available?
Like every for-profit business, they want to increase revenue. It's been covered previously on this site, there are two ways to increase revenue, one is to raise prices which they are doing this year a tiny bit on regular season games ($1 per seat/game for me) and hugely on the lone friendly ticket (from $29 to $77!). The other way to increase revenue is to increase supply and open up more seats. Even if season ticket sales don't increase by 10,000 (as they did last season), I think it still makes sense to open up more seats (the Hawks Nest is about 3,000) and potentially make more single game tickets available, or possibly some half-season packages again.
I distinctly remember an announcement at the end of the home opener against Philly where a limited number of season ticket packages were still avaiable. Those announcements only happened for the first 2-3 home games, if I recall correctly. One has to assume that they either sold the remaining packages, or made them available for single game sales. Either way, perhaps we toed the line where supply possibly catches up with demand at the beginning of the season. If that's the case, then opening up more seats for next season will likely be approached with extra caution.
In the end, the decisions around opening up more sections are going to be 100% driven by how many new season ticket holders sign up for next season. So get your buddies who are on the fence to sign up. They won't regret it.
And finally, I have a theory on the $70 friendly (the ticket rep said nothing on this). I think that it's going to be the 2011 MLS All-Star game. The league hasn't announced it yet, so the club is probably under gag order until it's official. Frankly, I think $70 is a fine price to pay to see the league all-stars take on the likes of Real Madrid or someone of that calliber (even if they whip us like ManU did). Adrian Hanauer recently hinted that it likely won't be the all-star game that will be our lone friendly. Bummer. I find it hard to think of any other matchup that would make me happy about the $77 pricetag I paid per ticket for it.
Final note: If something above is controversial. assume that it's my own thoughts and not something the ticket rep said. I don't want to get anyone in trouble.