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McClatchy regrets hiking ticket prices

Joe Rutter
| Saturday, April 27, 2002

Raising ticket prices after a 100-loss season was a decision Pirates owner Kevin McClatchy regrets. To correct what he thinks is a "mistake", McClatchy said Friday that season-ticket prices will not be increased next year at PNC Park.

"I think I'm the only team owner who has said he won't raise ticket prices for 2003," McClatchy said. "It's our way of saying what happened last year was a mistake. I'm man enough to say it."

Five days after the Pirates concluded a 62-100 season, the organization announced ticket-price increases for most seats, ranging from $1 to $2.

The biggest increases came on the priciest seats. Infield box seats were raised from $25 to $27, outfield box seats from $16 to $18 and bleacher seating from $12 to $14. The Pirates did reduce the prices of Pirate Cove seats from $25 to $20 and scaled back grandstand outfield seats to $10 after initially raising them from $9 to $11.

The price increase, combined with a sluggish economy, resulted in a 40 percent drop-off in season-ticket sales. The Pirates sold more than 17,000 season-ticket packages last season and saw that number dwindle to about 10,100 at the beginning of this season.

McClatchy said the price increase was the 14th largest in the major leagues. Because of it, the Pirates entered this season with the 10th highest ticket prices, on average, in baseball.

"I'm not trying to justify it," McClatchy said. "It was done, and I think it's time to turn the page."

In February, the Pirates sent a videotape to fans who did not renew their season tickets. McClatchy said on the tape that season-ticket prices would not increase next year.

"That never got covered," McClatchy said. "When the media watched the tape, it never got covered. I figure if I say it again, maybe people will realize it. As much heat as I'm getting on the other thing, maybe give me a little credit on that."

The pledge does not apply to individual ticket prices. McClatchy said that issue will be addressed after this season.

Entering last night's game, the Pirates had averaged 20,577 fans through 12 home dates. The only time the Pirates averaged more fans in April was last year, their inaugural one at PNC Park.

Still, the Pirates are 11th out of 16 National League teams in attendance this season.

"Throughout baseball, 19 out of 30 markets are down in terms of attendance," McClatchy said. "Pittsburgh is not the only one."

McClatchy also cited the weather as a reason for the decrease in attendance. The Pirates had four of their first 12 home games delayed by rain and two which began in 50-degree conditions or colder.

"When it's 45 and raining, I don't blame the family that doesn't feel like dragging three kids out when the weather is like that," McClatchy said.

McClatchy thinks the media has blown the ticket-price issue out of proportion and, as a result, neglected a team that unexpectedly vaulted into first place in the National League Central with a 13-7 record entering play last night.

"I want to put this issue to bed," he said. "I'd like the media to concentrate on a team that is in first place and, from my standpoint, is playing pretty good baseball.

"You guys can write whatever you want. If you write about this every day for the next month-and-a-half, I can't stop you. But I want to address it to our season-ticket holders. I'd like people to look at the team on the field.

"Most people picked this team to be the worst in baseball. They're out there playing well and playing hard, and they're better than people thought they were. That should be the story. Too many people are concentrating too much on one issue. It's overblown, and it's time to move on."

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