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The Economy of Being Bad

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PNC Park is a bucket list item for a lot of baseball fans. It’s also fairly accessible to a lot of the US, making it a good weekend trip. Therefore, it’s depressing to go to a Pirates game and see a ton of people in the other team’s colors, as we did last season. They happily chatter in the concession lines about how cheap the tickets are compared to their team’s (they are), rave about how beautiful the park is (it is), and ask anyone they perceive to be a local for restaurant recommendations (you’re welcome, Meat & Potatoes).

But now there’s COVID-19. MLB is shut down until at least mid-May. I’m not going to be a doomsayer and say there won’t be any baseball this year, it’s way too early for that. This season, though, as constant commercials and emails have been reminding us from the moment the schedule came out, the Pirates are due to play the Yankees in mid-June. Yankees fans tend to come out of the woodwork in any MLB city, and there were probably fans who were planning on road trips despite the games being mid-week. In short, the Yankees games were almost guaranteed to be that rarity at PNC—sellouts.

Depending on opponents’ fans to come fill seats and buy twelve-dollar beers is not the best business plan, but a lot of poorly performing teams do it. The Pirates are actually lucky in that regard because of PNC’s cachet among baseball fans, even after twenty years. Having been to Tampa’s Tropicana Field, I can assure you that no one’s clamoring to check that one off the list, although if you want a dirt-cheap club seats experience it’s not bad.

Having bought a six-pack of tickets last year put me on the Pirates’ marketing list, and before everything went insane the Bucs seemed like they were going to start paying people to come to games. Bought an Opening Day ticket? All non-club seats during April and May are ten bucks! For $190, you could buy ten vouchers good for any game—yes, even the Yankees games. The last email offered “buy one adult ticket, one kid is free.” And that was with the usual free t-shirts and bobbleheads and fireworks.

If the season starts back up June first, the Pirates will have 106 games, 55 of them at home.

Somehow, I don’t think they’ll be offering ten-dollar tickets.