Editors Note: This is part one of a three-part series on the three phases of being a season ticket holder.
Parts Two and Three of the series can be found below:
Part 3: I’m Thinking About Moving on From My Season Tickets (To Be Released Soon)
Owning season tickets is pretty much every die-hard fan’s dream. For me, my dream was to own season tickets for the Oakland A’s and Golden State Warriors. I made the jump into owning season tickets seven years ago – thankfully it worked out wonderfully.
I got Warriors season tickets when they traded for Andre Iguodala, moments before they had to start wait-listing prospective season ticket holders. The Warriors were on the rise and later made it to the NBA Finals in five of my first seven years, giving me many cherished memories and sizeable profits to boot.
Unfortunately, this rosy scenario that I enjoyed isn’t the case for many season ticket holders. I’ve owned many more season tickets since then, as well as consulted for my friends and clients regarding the season ticket decision. In this blog I’ll walk through the thought process I employ when making the season ticket decision.
If you are like me before I jumped into season tix, your thought process is “I’m a huge fan, so I’m going to get season tickets. That’s what pretty much everyone I know does, and it’s been my dream for so long. I’ll just sell a chunk of games to bring the cost down.” Before prescribing the solution, let’s explore key aspects of owning season tickets. I’ve boiled it down to six questions.
Question 1: How many games do I plan on attending?
Season Tickets make more sense if you/your group are going to attend 50% or more of the games. The fewer games you attend, the more you are going to spend in both time and money in selling fees trying to sell tickets.
Question 2: How painful is reselling tickets going to be?
Figuring out how to appropriately price and reprice your tickets is an extremely stressful and time-consuming process. Most season ticket holders already have a busy lifestyle, and selling tickets is extra work they don’t have time for.
The difficulty in selling tickets is that you are walking an extremely fine line of trying to get the highest price you can, while not risking the tickets going unsold. That line is invisible by the way, so good luck. Applies to both hot and cold teams, it’s just varying degrees of work and frustration.
We go deeper into ticket resale in the second article in this series. For now, be aware that you don’t want to be in a position of needing to frequently sell last minute, particularly if there is a soft resale market. If you are just reselling a few games for a hot team, that makes it more manageable.
Question 3: How expensive are the season tickets
relative to the resale market?
First let’s discuss season ticket cost, as each team employs different philosophies.
Certain teams have extremely high price points for their season tickets. Sometimes it’s because they are coming off multiple years of deep playoff runs, they have moved into a new stadium, or the team doesn’t want to leave any money on the table.
On the flipside, some teams are more fan-friendly and make sure their season ticket holders never pay above what the tickets go for on the resale market. It’s important to know where your team lies on this spectrum.
Now let’s discuss the resale market for your team. Broadly speaking, you have two situations.
Soft resale market: Tickets are generally always cheaper than the season tickets, for good and bad years. Maybe other teams/sports in the metro are more appealing, ownership has lost touch with the fan base, key injuries, multiple recent losing seasons, the list goes on.
Sadly, for certain teams even big winning years barely move the resale needle. There is less reason to get season tickets for these teams, especially if the team charges a lot for season tickets.
Strong resale market – either now, or you know from history it will take off when the tide turns. Certain markets catch like wildfire – Lakers being one. It may make sense to get in on season tickets at the low point, which is the rare window when a wait list is not in effect.
If you aren’t going to many games and the tickets for your team are usually priced relatively affordably on the resale market, maybe buying off the resale market is the smarter option. Be aware though that when comparing prices that most resale marketplaces add 15-30% in buying fees.
Question 4: How Valuable Are the Season Ticket Perks To You?
Believe it or not, the additional perks that come with your season tickets varies wildly. The Oakland A’s stand out positively in a huge way for me. 50% off concessions (including alcohol), 25% off merchandise, and the right to go to any game and enjoy the general admission areas for FREE. If you have a partial season ticket plan, entering a game for free is huge. That and 50% off concessions, you can see how that is a fun time out!
Other perks include being able to participate in presales for additional tickets for both regular season and postseason, sometimes with limited or even zero buying fees. Be aware that certain teams limit the amount of presale inventory or price the tickets so high that you can pretty much ignore the benefit existing.
Lastly, the quality and quantity of the Season Ticket Holder events are important to understand. Certain teams provide more free Season Ticket Holder events than others. These events can be a lot of fun, whether it’s large events with free food and drinks or smaller group settings. Both usually involve team players/personnel, which is cool. The Dodgers have a great event where Premium Seat Holders can play catch and take batting practice on the field, as well as take you on a behind the scenes tour of the dugouts, clubhouses, etc. The Warriors have a 3×3 basketball tournament in Chase Center exclusively for season ticket members, that will be a dream come true for me (when it’s rescheduled).
Question 5: Do I Have the Cash Flow for These Seats?
The first thing you will be doing every year is to make payments. Most teams offer payment plans on their season tickets, with terms that vary widely by team. For most people it becomes an event they need to plan their personal finances around. It’s not fun when a huge payment happens in March/April. Figuring out how to pay income taxes and property taxes is already challenging enough, tacking on a huge regular season payment and possibly a big playoff payment if you own multiple season tickets creates the perfect storm.
On the less friendly side we’ve seen it split into just three payments, with payment in full happening before the season starts. This is especially tough for sports like MLB where you’re fronting payment for a game that is 8 months out, and the payments coincide with tax season.
On the more friendly side we’ve seen 12 month payments. That means you are paying the tickets monthly throughout the season, so you aren’t fronting as much money and the payments are smaller. The only downside to this scenario is that you may not be able to sell the tickets through the team account and/or transfer tickets until you have paid off that game’s invoice. But we’d take a 12 month payment plan nine times out of ten.
For playoff rights you will be making another set of payments. Some teams require one full upfront payment for the entire playoffs a couple weeks before playoffs starts. This can be a lot of money, as the championship rounds typically have a much higher face value. Thankfully more teams are starting to charge you round-by-round, which is much more season ticket holder friendly.
If you have to pay for a seat license just to have the right to buy season tickets each year, costs get pretty big. You can finance seat licenses usually, but be prepared to pay up to 8% APR. The kicker is that if you don’t buy season tickets in a given year, you lose your seat license. If you’ve lost big money on season tickets for 3+ years and no hope is in sight – unfortunately the smart move may be to walk away entirely.
Question Six: Which seats will maximize my resale value?
Most season ticket holders need to resell a large amount of games, either to subsidize the cost or because they can’t attend every game in their package. Each arena has it’s sweet spots in terms of margins. Picking one section over another in the arena is the difference between making a profit .vs buyer’s remorse.
Also, how many seats you buy dictates your resale margin. Two seats generally are the lowest margin, whereas three seats tend to be much higher margin. Choose wisely!
Tips & Tricks
Always sign up for the Wait List. Usually it’s a relatively small deposit, so minimal risk and the rewards could be huge. Perfect example are Lakers fans on the wait list that got their name called right before Lebron joined.
Find Seat Partners if not using many games – or be a Seat Partner! Seat Partners can share the burden of the up-front payments, and spare the main season ticket holder the effort and cost of reselling tickets. Stipulate upfront whether your partners would get playoff rights, to avoid misunderstandings. Typically playoffs are included, but that can differ based on whether they are chipping in for seat licenses/other unique factors.
In actuality, the experience of owning “season tickets” varies wildly. Understand how you would use the season ticket if you got them, and see if there are other ways to achieve the same objective. If owning season tickets for you looks like going to 5-10 regular season games and a few playoff games, maybe season tickets are overkill and buying off the resale market makes more sense. If you plan on attending over half the regular season games along with lots of playoff games, or if the resale market usually goes through the roof for your team, season tickets can be a very smart move. The decision to own season tickets is a big financial decision that is based upon multiple factors, so make sure to get opinions from multiple perspectives. If you are leaning towards buying season tickets, I would recommend reading the next article in the series “Phase 2: Managing Season Tickets Year to Year”. We’ll be going deeper into the actual responsibilities of owning season tickets.
This blog has been written by TiqAssist. Our mission is to guide you through the complex and rewarding journey of being a fan and season ticket holder (partial or full season). If you would like a free consultation regarding any phase of being a season ticket holder, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Feel free to also suggest other topics you would love to learn more about either via a blog post or a one on one consultation. We’re happy to help the fellow season ticket holder community!