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Ticket prices for Pirates will get slight bump

The Pirates on Tuesday raised ticket prices for the first time in a decade, but they remain near the bottom compared to other major league clubs, according to team and industry figures.

The average ticket at PNC Park will cost $16.11 in 2012, an increase of 81 cents from this year's big league low of $15.30.

Pirates president Frank Coonelly said neither the club's success through the All-Star break, which raised hopes for the first winning season since 1992, nor this year's higher attendance had anything to do with the decision. Basically, he said, it was time. The Pirates had gone longer than any other team without raising prices.

"As a result, not surprisingly, we have fallen far behind the industry in terms of pricing our product," Coonelly said.

According to Team Marketing Report, Pirates ticket prices this year were more than 40 percent below the major league average.

"Not only we were below the average, well-below the larger-market clubs as you would expect, we are well, well below our division rivals," Coonelly said. "In order to continue to make the investments that are required to build a winning team, we have to be a competitively priced product."

The Pirates had the fourth-lowest Opening Day payroll this year, but the club has invested more money in the draft than any other club during the past four years.

Ticket prices last went up before the 2002 season, under previous ownership. Headed for a 19th consecutive losing season, the club has been reluctant to raise prices, especially because of the "backlash" — Coonelly's term — caused by the increase after the Pirates went 62-100 in 2001, their first year at PNC Park.

Despite a 10-game improvement in 2002, attendance plummeted by nearly 700,000.

"Ticket-price increases for the Pittsburgh Pirates probably is a more sensitive topic than for other organizations, given our history," Coonelly said. "We understand that and understand the reasons for that. The 2002 price increase was not well-received, and for good reason. And as a result of that, probably, the decision in terms of pricing our product ... was made more difficult."

Coonelly emphasized the Pirates are not trying to "make up lost ground" in raising ticket prices. He said most tickets would stay the same, decrease or go up $3 or less.

The lower level tickets, he said, would have the greatest increase because that's where the Pirates lag farther behind other teams. But he noted that while some dugout box seats would rise $5, the price would be only $2 more than in 2002. Other lower-level seats would cost less than in 2002, he said.

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