Twins’ Ballpark Pass: Fair or Foul?
After finishing 30th of 30 in the 2016 MLB season, the Twins faced a changeup heading into the new season. Spring ticket sales would likely not rebound in anticipation of a playoff run, so to fill the seats, the ball club tried to sell not home runs nor weather nor winning, but “fan flexibility.”
As season-ticket sales have declined thanks to a series of losing years, the Twins gained the excess capacity to give fans a little wiggle room. First came a ticket-exchange program for season-ticket holders, then the Flex Plan—basically 20 coupons fans can deploy at whim. This season came the Spring Ballpark Pass. Buyers could attend every home game in April and May—30 games in all—for $99. “About half the teams in the MLB do ‘pass plans’ like this now,” says Mike Clough, senior vice president of ticket sales. (They tend to be teams that do not fill the ballpark.)
While some clubs determine pass-seating assignments based on game-day availability, the Twins opted for a standing-room offering. Fans could sit in restaurant or bar venues, or stand at drink rails, but paid seats were off-limits. The reason, Clough explains, was to uphold the integrity of the paid ticket, avoiding an outcry from season-ticket holders paying roughly $99 to attend three games in middling seats. “The last thing we want to do is upset that group of people,” Clough says, “because they are the lifeblood of our organization.”
Approximately 1,200 of the passes were sold, with utilization averaging around 30 percent per game. “The deal certainly was a success,” Clough says, “as it assisted with attendance challenges we have in April and May, with school in session and uncertain weather.”
Redemption was on par with competing ball club rates, says Clough, but the demographics weren’t. “Ideally, we assumed there would be a younger [fan] going after this,” he says, “but the average age was 42.”
Fortunately for the Twins, four out of five pass buyers were not registered in its ticketing system—they were new customers, rather than old ones looking for a bargain. “Right now we’re in contact with all of the people who bought the pass to see if we can transition them into some form of a season-ticket package,” Clough says. “If we have success in doing so, then that certainly might sway our decision to bring it back next year.”