- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 12, 2005

The Washington Nationals are increasing ticket prices by nearly 15 percent for some seats next season and will charge additional “premium” rates for games against the Baltimore Orioles, New York Yankees and Chicago Cubs.

The Nationals, who drew about 2.7 million fans to RFK Stadium during their inaugural season in Washington, have increased prices for nearly all tickets, though the team still will charge $7 for seats in the upper deck of the outfield, and many seats in the lower deck will be priced the same or just $1 more.

The team will charge fans between $5 and $10 extra for the most popular games, including Opening Day on April 11, the May 19-21 series against the Orioles, the June 16-18 series against the Yankees and the July 21-23 series against the Cubs.

The biggest price increase for a regular game will be for tickets in the lower rows of the 300 level, which rise from $35 to $40 for individual tickets. The most expensive available ticket for a regular game will be $45 for a single-game seat in the 200 level field box. Seats at the Diamond Box and Field MVP level, close to the playing field, are sold out. Season ticket prices will be between $2 and $6 less per ticket than if purchased individually, but they are still subject to similar increases over last season.

“While the 2006 price structure reflects an increase in cost for some of the seating options, tickets for baseball games at RFK Stadium remain an affordable entertainment option for fans,” the team said in a statement. The Nationals are owned by Major League Baseball, which moved the team from Montreal last year.

Charging more for the most popular games has become common practice in the major leagues, and some teams have more elaborate “tier” pricing for the entire season. The Orioles, for instance, charged as much as 45 percent more last year for games against the Yankees and Boston Red Sox than for games against the less popular Tampa Bay Devil Rays and Toronto Blue Jays.

“What the Nationals are doing is very much not abnormal,” said Becky Wallace, editor of the Chicago-based Team Marketing Report. “They are very much middle of the pack.”

The Team Marketing Report last year rated the Nationals 12th in ticket cost among the 30 MLB teams, with an average ticket price of $21.43, about 30 cents more than the league average and $1 less than the Orioles. The team also generally charged slightly less than the average for food, parking and souvenirs.

Leaguewide, the average increase in ticket prices between the 2004 and 2005 season was 6.3 percent. It is difficult to determine the overall percentage increase in Nationals’ ticket prices for this season because the team did not break down prices on a seat-by-seat basis. But the team boasts that 13,000 seats will be priced at or below $11.

The Nationals are under some pressure to increase ticket sales for next season. While the team exceeded expectations by drawing 2.7 million fans and made a $25 million profit, it fell short of raising the $10.5 million in taxes anticipated by the District. That shortfall came largely as a result of no-shows, which were higher at RFK than most stadiums.

To put more fans in the seats, the Nationals likely will need to make some additional upgrades at RFK, which housed a baseball team this year for the first time since 1971. The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission is reviewing many of the contracts associated with RFK’s operation, and has set aside $1 million for additional renovations.

Also yesterday, the Nationals announced they will play host to an exhibition game on March 31 against the Orioles and expect it will become an annual tradition.

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