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Distant view of PSU ticket situation
November 18, 2009 - John Mehno
I don't cover Penn State, but I know that this issue of a ticket increase is a hot one. I also understand that a state university involves a different set of circumstances than you'd have with a private enterprise like a pro football or baseball franchise. So let me offer a couple of comments with those disclaimers in mind, based on my years of covering sports:
1. Most meetings to discuss ticket prices include the words, "Can we get away with....?" It's a matter of determining what the market will bear. It's a disaster if you go past that threshold. For example, the New York Mets had a huge jump in ticket prices last year when they moved into their new stadium. The team was barely better than the Pirates in 2009, so the Mets had to back off and slash some of the prices. But it's rare that prices ever go down.
2. Football tickets can withstand more price manipulations than other sports. There aren't that many games in a season, and some people plan their fall weekends around the games. It's easy to skip a baseball game on a cold and rainy night in April or September. The football games are weekend parties, and people don't like to miss those. That's why the place sells out even when the opponent is lousy. The games become social events, and attending is ruled by emotion rather than a calculating assessment of the entertainment value.
The people at PSU must have every confidence that for every angry letter, for every furious talk show call, for every cancellation, they'll still have a full house when it's all said and done.
It's probably not fair, but it's the way of the world.