When the Orioles announced back in December that they would be slightly increasing season ticket prices, they also took that time to introduce the concept of dynamic pricing. Under this system, games are divided into five tiers of price levels and ticket prices fluctuate as games approach depending on demand.
At the time this system was unveiled, it seemed like the fan would be largely screwed, with more games having increased prices but few games getting a discount based on the fact that nobody cares about going to see the Royals on a Tuesday night in May. On Monday, the Orioles revealed the initial prices for individual game tickets. Surprisingly, many of the prices are cheaper compared to last year's advance sales price.
It takes some work to manage to ruffle everyone's feathers with higher ticket prices when many tickets will be going down in price. That is a rough rollout.
Previously, the Orioles had regular games and prime games. Now there are value (cheapest), classic, select, prime, and elite. There are six value games, 49 classic, seven select, 14 prime, and five elite. In the past, there would be about 25 prime games. That looks to continue, though they are now split across three price tiers.
There are two big questions. One, which games are which price? The Orioles provided a detailed list of what game was what type of price in their season ticket mailings but have not provided that information anywhere on their website. You would think that the regular season schedule would be a great place to signify which price tier a given game is. Thanks to CCer Astronaut Mike Dexter for pointing me to the information that was given to season ticket holders.
Elite games are Opening Day and Saturday night games against the Yankees/Red Sox and Cardinals. Prime games are non-Saturday games against those teams. Select games are the Saturday games from June-August against non-marquee opponents, and also weeknight games against the Nationals. The value games are mid-week, with a Monday-Wednesday series in April (including a 12:35 game) against the Rays and a Monday-Wednesday series in September against the Blue Jays. Everything else is classic.
The second question is two wrapped up in one. How often, and how much, will "market demand" affect the price of games? The chart released says Valid February 2014. When I first saw that, I thought that meant you couldn't buy until February, since the day of Fanfest is the first day of single game ticket sales. Stacey pointed out to me that could mean the prices will go up starting in March.
Those established, it remains for the present pricing that whole swaths of seats are cheaper than last year at this time. For instance, advance prices of the yellow seats that were $30 in 2013 are currently $29. The most expensive field box seats go from $60 down to $56 for classic games.
Even for prime games, there are decreases. Those yellow seats that were $50 for a prime game are now $35 for select, $44 for prime, and remain $50 for elite. A $95 field box seat for a prime game last year is now $66 for select, $79 for prime, and remains $95 for elite.
There has to be a catch, because not even the Orioles could be so bad at selling themselves that they would not be trumpeting price decreases if they would be continuing to exist. One reason they aren't could be that, as Stacey suspected, prices will start going up, and by the time it's April and you think about going to a June game, tickets will cost more than they did last year.
Perhaps some games currently tagged as classic will get bumped to select if "demand" warrants, a little feat of legerdemain that would neatly remove any supposed price decrease when compared to last year. Outside of price levels, it could just be that the day of game surcharge (or whatever the Orioles want to try to hide it as) will be even greater this year than it was in the past.
This is the incentive to buy early. If you already know that you'd like to be at Camden Yards on Thursday, June 12 at 7:05 for the Orioles to take on Toronto, and the exact number of people that will be joining you for that game, I salute you.
Another reason could be that, while the more expensive tickets are currently less in price, all of the cheap seats have gone up by a dollar or two. Left field upper reserve goes from $9 to $10, and the Tuesday bargain price for all of the left field seats goes up from $9 to $10 as well. Last year's $14 ticket is now $15 and last year's $17 ticket is now $18.
These are modest increases, but they are still increases. It would look bad to talk about prices going down when Joe Birdland and his family are paying a few bucks more while everyone else who has the money for more expensive tickets is paying less.
The biggest reason to figure that the price decreases won't last is the simple fact that the Orioles are a business and businesses exist to make money for themselves. Buy now because they'll only make more money off you later. If you want to wait to see a specific pitcher's start, well, sorry. If your family or friends aren't organized enough to commit to anything for next weekend, let alone three months from now, well, sorry.
Right this second, though, Orioles tickets are looking like a pretty good deal, but as the fine print says: Prices subject to change.