This year, for the first time since 2004, Madison Square Garden hosted an NBA playoff game. The Knicks’ improved play on the court was noticed in places other than just the standings—4,000 more season tickets were sold this season compared to last; MSG Network television ratings for Knicks games were up 95 percent from last season; there was an unmeasureable but considerable buzz in New York City that had been missing for years.
Those in charge of setting the ticket prices for Knicks games next season may have overestimated this buzz; they perhaps misinterpreted some of these numbers. How else, other than pure greed of course, can you explain the average increase of 49 percent for tickets next year?*
Some season ticket holders have to decide if their 2010-2011 $330 ticket is now worth $900, and I’m guessing the Knicks are going to learn the answer is “no” more often than not.
Yes, the Knicks were a playoff team this season, and with Carmelo Anthony on board they figure to be one for at least the next few seasons as well. But that is not a major accomplishment in the NBA. A .500 record in the Eastern Conference will usually earn you a spot in the postseason. Advancing in the playoffs—and the added home playoff games that come with it—is what counts. The Knicks were the only team swept in the opening round this year, so the streak of seasons without New York winning even a playoff game reached 10.
Regarding the increased ticket prices, the only question that matters is: Will people pay? I know just one Knicks season ticket holder. His two seats are going from $110 each to $280, an increase of more than 150 percent, a jump he called “complete insanity.” He considered paying $100 for worse seats but decided against buying tickets altogether.
|You’ll get more bang for your buck at MSG for a St. John’s game than you will for a Knicks game next year.|
When the Yankees opened their new stadium in 2009, they learned their $2,500 seats were grossly overpriced, so they quickly reduced them by a grand. The two examples aren’t the same—baseball fans have another (cheaper) option with the Mets, there are twice as many home games a year in baseball (making each less special), and the economy was worse then. Still, the powers that be miscalculated the amount fans would spend and they had to adjust accordingly.
I would not be surprised if the Knicks found themselves in the same spot come November. I’d argue no team is worth the money the Knicks are charging, but this is especially true of the Knicks, a franchise that has been one of the worst in the league the past decade and projects to be a bottom tier playoff team at best in the near future.
The Knicks have made a lot of infamously bad financial decisions the last several years, but they have involved the signing of players. This time, it’s the fans that are getting the raw deal.
*The Rangers, meanwhile, are raising prices by an average of 23 percent, and they, too, can’t fully justify it. Since 1997 they’ve missed the NHL playoffs nine times and have a total of two series wins.