Packers Playing Dangerous Game Raising Ticket Prices Again

For the ninth consecutive season, the Packers announced that they’re raising ticket prices.

The Green package (six regular season games and one preseason game) will increase by $44 per seat and the Gold package (two regular season games and one preseason game) will increase by $16 per seat.

Richard Ryman of the Green Bay Press-Gazette explained the rationale behind the changes:

  1. Per President and CEO Mark Murphy, the team aims to price their tickets in the middle of the league.
  2. When the team chose to not raise prices on tickets from 2007-2009, other NFL teams expressed frustration with the decision. Visiting teams get a percentage of ticket sales.

While the decision to raise ticket prices makes rational sense, it’s a bad look for the Packers organization. Here’s why.

Raising ticket prices makes sense, but nine straight years?

In a five season stretch from 2003 to 2007, the Packers raised ticket prices just three times for a combined total of $13 per seat. In the five seasons from 2014 to today, the Packers raised ticket prices each year for a combined total of $27 per seat.

Bob Harlan, the Packers previous President & CEO, had a habit of raising ticket prices every other season. His successor Mark Murphy has raised prices for nine consecutive seasons.

Vince Lombardi was the Packers head coach the last time there were unsold seats at Lambeau Field. It’s been that long.

More than 133,000 people are on the waiting list to purchase Packers season tickets, though Jason Wilde suggests just two-thirds would actually buy tickets if given the chance.

One reason why is because tickets are more available today than ever before. If you weren’t a season ticket holder and wanted to attend a game before the internet, you either had to contact a ticket broker, respond to a classified ad in the newspaper, or hope to buy a ticket near the stadium on game day.

It’s no longer about “who you know” if you want to go to a game at Lambeau Field.

The Packers and their preseason ticket problem

Winning cures and covers a lot of problems. Packers fans saw in 2017 firsthand what problems lay underneath the surface when Aaron Rodgers went down for most of the season. Within ten days of Rodgers’ injury, the average price to see the Packers dropped by $100.

The one cure that winning cannot fix is the mandatory preseason ticket, however. Both Green package and Gold package season ticket holders must purchase one preseason game. Until 2016, there was no discount to watch an exhibition contest.

The price difference between a preseason and regular season ticket is significant, but not enough. For bleacher seats between the 20-yard lines, regular season tickets are $131 each while the preseason game is $71.

It’s a nice gesture by the Packers to acknowledge that the preseason games aren’t of the same quality as the regular season games.

The NFL has been slow to shrink or modify the preseason because of policies like Green Bay’s that forces season ticket holders to buy preseason tickets. The experience of attending regular season games is so great that the league can bolt on meaningless exhibition contests, and fans will suck it up and lay the money down.

For fans who don’t wish to see the preseason game and would rather sell their tickets, 50-yard line tickets in 2016’s preseason averaged just $20 each throughout the league. That’s a loss of over $200 for a season ticket holder with four seats.

Attending a Packers game is more expensive than you think

It’s expensive to attend an NFL game. One way to measure the expense of attending a game is through a metric called Fan Cost Index. This metric includes four average-priced tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four regular-size hot dogs, parking for one car, two game programs and two of the least-expensive, adult-sized caps.

In a piece I wrote pleading the NFL to consider showing games in movie theaters, I noted that the Fan Cost Index reported the cost of attending an NFL game was $337.72 in 2014.

It’s important to note that the Fan Cost Index measures face value tickets bought directly from the teams and not from online brokers like StubHub or TicketMaster.

Forbes studied data from those secondary ticket markets (StubHub, TicketMaster, NFL Ticket Exchange, etc.) from the 2012 season and reported tickets at Lambeau Field sold for 217.9 percent over face value. The Packers’ average ticket price that year was $78.84, meaning the average ticket bought on the secondary market went for $171.79.

That means the same family of four under the Fan Cost Index pays $678.16 just for four tickets on the secondary market. Add in parking, tailgating supplies, souvenirs, food and drinks and you’re likely close to $1,000 for an afternoon at Lambeau Field.

How many families in Wisconsin can afford to drop a grand on a three hour activity?

Winning won’t last forever, and neither will the waiting list

All told, the Packers are well within their rights to raise ticket prices for a ninth consecutive season. They’ve got the game’s best player at the game’s most important position, and will likely play at least three nationally televised contests in Lambeau Field.

When the winning stops in Green Bay – and it will – how quickly will the six-figure waiting list evaporate?

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their Super Bowl run with head coach Jon Gruden boasted a nearly 100,000 person season ticket waiting list. Seven years after winning Super Bowl XXXVII and two years after winning their division, the Buccaneers no longer had a season ticket waiting list.

Green Bay is roughly a third of the size as Tampa. While it’s true that Packers fans are one of the most loyal fanbases, there comes a time when the price becomes too steep for the product on the field and there aren't enough fans who live close enough to pay.

Sure, it’s fine paying hundreds of dollars now to take your family to see a rousing win over the Lions. How about when there’s a mediocre quarterback under center, the weather’s awful and you can watch it in 4K on your television from home?

Raising ticket prices for nearly a decade straight has not built goodwill with Packers fans, especially season ticket holders in Green Bay’s Brown County. The county is now three years removed from a fifteen year, half-cent sales tax that raised $20 million annually to fund the 2003 renovation of Lambeau Field and cover maintenance costs through 2031.

The bubble will burst one day. Gone will be the six-figure season ticket waiting list, and with it the fervor and excitement so many of us feel towards the Packers. It’s going to be a strange sight to see Lambeau Field with empty pockets in the bleachers.