The last time the Twins made the postseason in 2010, they were in their first season at Target Field. Their home attendance for the season topped 3 million fans, helped in large part by a base of 25,000 season tickets.
The Twins won the AL Central that season — their sixth division title in nine years — and with the second-best record among division winners Minnesota had home field advantage against the wild card Yankees in the American League Division Series — guaranteeing the Twins and their fans at least two home games (which, it turned out, was all they got after being swept).
It was, to put it mildly, a much different postseason ticket selling climate. The Twins’ season ticket base has roughly been cut in half since Target Field opened, fueled by five 90-loss seasons between 2011 and 2016.
Their surprising turnaround from 103 losses last season to clinching the second wild card spot Thursday — something that didn’t exist last time they were in the playoffs — has “energized the Twins’ fan base,” team president Dave. St. Peter said Thursday morning.
He said he expects Target Field will be sold out for any American League Division Series games, should the Twins advance to that series.
But in this new postseason model where two wild card teams square off in a one-game format to advance to the division series, a team that makes the playoffs as the second wild card isn’t guaranteed a home game. That provides challenges — but also opportunities — for the Twins when it comes to selling playoff tickets.
“These are different circumstances than 2010, no doubt. We recognize that,” St. Peter said. “But I will say we’ve been encouraged by the engagement of our existing season ticket holders and group customers and other key stakeholders during presale. They’ve reacted in a very positive way in terms of postseason ticket opportunities.”
Still, more than 10,000 tickets to both potential American League Division Series games were available at 10 a.m. Thursday when tickets for that series went on sale to the general public. Season ticket holders can buy tickets already for the entire postseason, while the general public sale is — for now — just for the ALDS.
St. Peter texted me 45 minutes after tickets went on sale to say there has been “tremendous interest” and that more than 33,000 tickets to both games possible ALDS games have been sold.
But he also anticipates a lot of tickets will remain available into next week as fans stay in wait-and-see mode for that game in Yankee Stadium against a team that eliminated the Twins in 2003, 2004, 2009 and 2010 and compiled a postseason record of 12-2 in the process.
If the wait-and-see folks hurt early presale a little, though, St. Peter expects the Twins to reap the rewards if they are able to beat the Yankees.
“I expect sellouts (for the ALDS). We’re not sold out, just to be clear. We have tickets to sell, and a lot of them. But I expect we will,” St. Peter said. “The way this club has played in the second half, I think a lot of casual fans are paying attention again for the first time in a long time. We need to win in Yankee Stadium to even play a home playoff game, but the backdrop of that victory would create incredible momentum next week.”
St. Peter pointed to 2009, when the Twins beat the Tigers in a one-game playoff for the division title, sparking a frenzy of ticket sales for the division series.
Bigger-picture, St. Peter said the Twins are off to a strong start with season ticket renewals and adding new customers for 2018 with the goal of inching toward 15,000 full season ticket equivalents next year. That goal underscores how much ground was lost as buzz around a new ballpark and the Twins’ losing seasons ate away at their crowds, but it would still be an improvement.
St. Peter acknowledged that a win over the Yankees would give the Twins another boost toward 2018 as well. And of course any tickets already sold for the ALDS are dependent on what happens Tuesday (the Twins will issue full refunds, with the exception of the $6 per order fee, on any tickets purchased for games that don’t end up happening).
“The postseason plays some role in season ticket sales, but I think the narrative around our club has already changed dramatically in the last 12 months,” St. Peter said. “The reality is the place you get a significant lift is if you can make a postseason run. Obviously Tuesday night’s game is really significant. Ultimately we need to make something happen in the postseason, and we’ll see Tuesday night.”