Despite meager improvements over last year’s lackluster home attendance, the Red Sox will once again be asking their season ticket holders for more money next year.
“We’ve had a very modest, low single-digit increase on season-ticket prices,” team president and CEO Sam Kennedy confirmed during Monday afternoon’s end-of-year press conference.
With that, the Red Sox extend their streak of upping the cost of admission to four consecutive seasons. Not exactly an olive branch to the Fenway Faithful after the team’s third last-place finish in these four years.
Hours before Kennedy and manager Alex Cora fielded questions from the media, Major League Baseball announced that the 2023 season drew 70 million in collective attendance for the first time since 2017, with a 9.6-percent increase over 2022. Not including the COVID-impacted 2020 and 2021 seasons, it’s the highest percentage growth since 1983.
The Red Sox are among the 24 teams that saw attendance rise this season, and one of 17 teams that exceeded 2.5 million. For some clubs, that’s a great achievement.
For this one, not so much. According to Baseball Reference, America’s Most Beloved Ballpark finished the year with just over 2.672 million. That’s about 47,000 more than last season, when the Red Sox posted their worst home attendance since 2000, previous ownership’s penultimate season.
“We actually are incredibly appreciative of the fan support that we had this year,” Kennedy said. “Our attendance was slightly up, which is somewhat remarkable if you consider coming off of a last-place finish in 2022, and obviously, we know where we are in 2023. So, we’re incredibly grateful for the support that we had night in and night out… For a team that fell short of our own expectations, it’s something we’re incredibly grateful for.”
Of course, the increased attendance included droves of visiting fans who packed Fenway all season long. At times, it felt like there were more Mets, Dodgers, and Astros fans in the stands.
As for non-season ticket numbers, that’s a more fluid situation. “We price the rest of our ticket inventory dynamically,” Kennedy explained. “Prices change based upon market conditions over the course of the year, so we don’t have set prices as we enter the year other than the season ticket packages.”
Indeed, by mid-September, Red Sox-Yankees tickets were going for a mere dollar plus fees on apps like Gametime, leading legendary outfielder Fred Lynn to write on X (formerly Twitter), “They are literally selling tickets for $1. Got more than that when I played.”
Normally, though, Fenway is quite a pricey experience, and has been for close to three decades.
It was expensive before current ownership arrived. In May 2000, the Society for American Baseball Research announced that the Red Sox were MLB’s most expensive ticket for the fifth year in a row. In those glory days of Pedro Martinez, the average ticket rang in at $28.33, a whopping 17.8-percent jump from 1999, and more than double the cost just five years earlier.
In 2011, the average price was up to $52.32, second only to the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field. By April 2015, Team Marketing Report’s MLB Fan Cost Index® announced that even without raising prices after a last-place finish the year before, the Red Sox were the most expensive game in the league. The report also revealed that while a “small” beer cost $7.75 at Fenway, the Cubs’ Wrigley Field, and Phillies’ Citizens Bank Park, Boston’s idea of a small beer was only 12 ounces, compared to 16 in Chicago and 21 in Philadelphia.
Less than two weeks ago, Statista announced that even though the Red Sox were the third-most expensive average ticket in baseball this season (behind the Dodgers and Yankees), the Fan Cost Index still had them as the most expensive day out in the entire league, with the cost of taking a family to Fenway coming in at over $396. (Their calculations include “four average-price tickets, two small draft beers, four small soft drinks, four regular-size hot dogs, parking for one hour, two game programs and two least-expensive, adult-size adjustable caps.”)
The Red Sox are currently a team without a top baseball operations executive, one day removed from their third last-place finish in four seasons, and sitting on the sidelines while other teams play postseason ball. On Monday, Kennedy acknowledged that a lot needs to change.
“There’s a desire to compete. You’ve heard us say it,” he reiterated. “And sometimes, those words ring hollow when you’ve had two very disappointing seasons, but there’s just nothing like winning in Boston, and we need to get that back.
“We want to get back. Forget the championships of the past. We need to focus on what’s in front of us, and we want to get that feeling. We want that winning feeling, and our fans deserve that, so we’re going to have to do what it takes to get there, and that’s what we’re committed to do.”
However, Kennedy also acknowledged that the Fenway Faithful are a powerful variable in the equation.
“We’re always concerned if we’re not performing on the field and what that might do to our attendance,” he said. “We need to have a packed house each and every night. It’s a competitive advantage, what it does for the environment and what it does to create resources that can be reinvested back into the team.”
If that’s truly the case, then it would be wise to give fans more reasons to pack the house.
Instead, Kennedy wouldn’t confirm (or deny) that the Red Sox plan to spend big this offseason, claiming that such a declaration would reveal their hand, and he was similarly noncommittal when asked if this offseason is an “all-in” situation.
“No, I don’t really even know how to define ‘all-in,” he said. “Maybe it’s just ‘cuz on the inside, we feel like we’re all-in every year in terms of the work, and the preparation, and the commitment, and the dedication. So I feel like we’re all-in from that perspective each and every year.”
The Red Sox organization is full of hard-working individuals whose contributions aren’t always adequately reflected in the team’s final product. Nonetheless, the only thing this franchise has consistently gone all-in on in recent years is raising the cost of admission for those still devoted enough to pay for season tickets.
If they want more money from their fans, they should have to prove they’re worth it first.