Back in March we had a post on how the Cubs were going to use dynamic pricing to sell bleacher seats this season. That post apparently caught the attention of someone at SeatGeek, a ticket search engine, and led to me getting the following email:
I’ve followed your past coverage of the Cubs’ decision to bring dynamic pricing to Wrigley Field bleacher seats this season, and I wanted to share with you a comprehensive White Paper that SeatGeek has compiled to help identify the real factors driving dynamic pricing at Wrigley Field.
As the Cubs official website says, a dynamic pricing system allows the team to adjust ticket prices based on “changing market factors.” But what does that really mean? We’re a ticket search engine that aggregates data from over 60+ ticket providers, so we recently ran an analysis to tease out the true factors driving variable pricing of Bleacher tickets this season.
In the attached “Bleacher Bum Economics” report, we examine how the Cubs valued bleacher tickets by day of the week, quality of opponent, and time of day. We’ve also identified a few tips and tricks that Cubs fans can use to save money on Bleacher tickets. For example, we learned that tickets for games on a Saturday are 5x as expensive as Monday games, so picking an early-week game is a great way to consistently find good deals on bleacher seats. We’ve included more tips in the report beyond just these mentioned above as well.
I’m in all favor of finding a bargain in going to a ballgame, but are we really giving away Ricketts family secrets here?
I think in some ways, this report is either a little misleading or not terribly surprising. The misleading part may just be a consequence of having only one season’s worth of data. Take, for example, its analysis of intradivisional rivalries.
The distinction of worst Wrigley Field draw, though, goes to another NL Central team – the Milwaukee Brewers. A bleacher ticket to one of the Cubs’ four games against the Brewers sold for an average of $16, the cheapest of any series opponent. That series also includes the lowest single-game ticket price of the season, as a Wednesday day game in April fetched $12 per ticket. The NL Central overall has not had much interest for Cubs fans, as tickets to see the Cubs’ division opponents average just $33, well below the overall season average of $50.
Now I was at one of those games against the Brewers; see the picture above and note the “Opening Week” logo behind home plate. (Also note the funky shift the Brewers used against Alfonso Soriano.) It was the second week of April and it was kinda cold. I also went to one of the other games against a National League Central opponent a week or so later when the Reds were in town. That game wasn’t kinda cold; it was freezing. Indeed, all of the Cubs home games against NL Central opponents this year except for one series against the Astros have been in April. The Astros series in June had much higher prices than the April games — not because they Astros are a more interesting opponent but because the games were not in April. It doesn’t take a lot of data analysis to conclude that drinking Old Style outside in Chicago in April may not be a lot of fun.
To see why the results are not terribly surprising, checkout this version of the Cubs schedule (which is from the team’s site):
Games are classified as bronze, silver, gold, platinum, or marquee. Further, bleacher seats may be at a different tier than the rest of Wrigley. Indeed, they may be below (for day games in early spring) or above (for a day game in late August). While I have not done a complete analysis, it seems like the Cubs tiering is an excellent proxy for the price of a bleacher seat — it not only accounts for day of week, opponent, and time of day, it also takes into consideration that April games can be brutal to sit through. To say all that another, the SeatGeek analysis confirms that the Cubs knew what they were doing when they tiered their games.
But what question should SeatGeek’s data geeks really be setting out to answer? To my mind the interesting question is when should fans buy tickets. When here is not what day of the week to go. Rather if someone wants to see a particular game , when should they pull the trigger on the purchase? Does more inventory become available closer to game day or does price steadily rise as inventory dwindles? That would actually be helpful to know and something the Cubs wouldn’t share.