The Twins may not always be competing for a championship, but they’re definitely always competing for your entertainment dollar. And that’s why the Twins’ losses — all 96 of them last year — is your gain, Mr. Average Baseball Fan.
On certain nights, if you hold up a $20 bill at the corner of First Avenue and Sixth Street, you’re liable to end up with a $50 ticket a few rows behind the dugout. Surf some of the online ticket resellers, and you can find upper-deck boxes at $5 or less. Buy a seat in the Great Clips section, and get a coupon good for $10 worth of bratwurst. And if you walk up to the ticket window 15 minutes before the Royals and Twins take the field? Choose from some of the best seats in the house.
“Fans may be surprised by some of the prime locations they can find,” Twins President Dave St. Peter said.
Yes, the Twins remain a strong draw, attracting 2,776,354 fans last season. And while that’s a decline of almost 5,000 fans per game from 2011’s 3.17 million total, it still ranked 12th in the major leagues, and first among last-place teams.
Even better for their bottom line, the Twins charged an average of $33.04 per ticket, according to Team Marketing Research, more than any team except the Red Sox, Yankees, Cubs and Phillies. No wonder the team is brainstorming ideas to keep Minnesotans interested in coming back.
Balancing supply with demand is a delicate business these days, and the Twins are becoming increasingly sophisticated in straddling that line. The most noticeable way they do that is by classifying games by projected desirability — five different levels this season, up from three a year ago — and pricing the same seat differently in each class.
In other words, buy a box seat in the infield, halfway up the aisle, for the April 13 game with the Mets, and you’ll pay $62. Come back the next day, a Sunday afternoon, and the same seat is only $48. Another 24 hours later, for a Monday night against the Angels, and the Twins want only $35.
But if you want that same seat when the Yankees are in town in July? You’ll have to cough up $89.
“We try to structure the tiers so there are some bargains for fans, say midweek games, but also reflect the high-demand games with higher prices,” said Paul Froehle, Twins senior director of ticket operations. “When we rolled out our pricing for 2013, the five tiers allowed us to better tie our prices to the marketplace. And the demand-based feature allows us to fine-tune that even more closely, whether up or down.”
Yes, “demand-based” pricing is implemented when the Twins have trouble moving tickets for a less desirable game, or when they sense stronger-than-usual interest in a game. The base prices fluctuate, up or down; those Yankee tickets, if you can still get them, actually figure to go for more than the base price. But some April games, St. Peter said, “I suspect there will be outfield seats priced below $10.”
Of course, there’s always StubHub — Major League Baseball’s official partner for reselling tickets — and an active broker trade within a few blocks of Target Field. Froehle said the Twins have no relationship with any so-called “scalpers,” and they discourage fans from buying from them
For Wednesday's game against Detroit, four tickets in the Legends Club, behind home plate and in the third row, sold for $19.60 apiece -- including fees -- on StubHub a few days back.
“You’re taking a chance when you buy off the street and paying cash, because very often people come to the gate with them and the ticket has already been used. Or people sell their ticket [electronically] on StubHub, then sell their printed tickets on the street, which are no longer valid,” Froehle said. “You’re not always buying valid tickets, and that doesn’t help us, either.”