The Sixers are notifying season ticket holders of 2020-2021 season ticket renewal prices and 2020 playoff tickets today. As one might expect, both will see modest increases.
There will be an average season ticket increase in the second level of $7 per ticket. And while prices have stepped up slowly over the last few seasons, this will be the first time the upper bowl receives a double-digit percentage increase.
I spoke with Sixers President Chris Heck and Vice President of Communications Dave Sholler about the pricing changes– both, aware that fans are sensitive to any price increase, wanted to provide some context.
Despite the increase in second-level, or upper bowl seats, the bulk of the increase will again come in the premium lower bowl and courtside seats. Those tickets are in high-demand, with courtside seats approaching actual 100% renewal rates. So, as Bernie Sanders would probably approve of, the burden will be largely felt by the millionaires and billionaires jockeying for face-time on ESPN.
The Sixers want to be careful not to price-out average fans or Process folks, and seem content to pass most of the added costs along to the folks who can afford it.
Sixers Tickets Remain Reasonably Priced
It can be tempting for an organization whose fortunes have changed so rapidly over the course of three years or so – from bottom dweller to contender – to drastically and forcefully raise rates and price-out common fans. The Sixers have largely avoided doing that.
The Sixers’ partnership with StubHub, which was announced several years ago and sees them sell their individual game inventory in conjunction with secondary market tickets through the ticketing platform, was initially met with some skepticism (including from me), because, at least in theory, it enables the Sixers to obfuscate (read: raise) single-game ticket prices without transparency. [The partnership allows for combining original and secondary inventory in the same transaction with one average price spread across multiple seats.] But anecdotal checks over the years have failed to yield any sort of red flags, and in some cases have produced genuine value on the secondary market site.
In short, there’s no evidence – from my view – that the Sixers’ partnership with StubHub has negatively impacted fans beyond regular increases expected for hard-to-get tickets.
And that sentiment extends to their season ticket prices.
Three years ago, according to Heck and Sholler, the Sixers had the 23rd most expensive season ticket prices in the league. The change for 2020-2021 will bring them somewhere around 10th-12th in the league, with the highest courtside ticket price of $3,200 and lowest get-in of $20. This averages out to around $92 per ticket, which is lower than the obvious teams like the Warriors, Knicks, and Lakers, and also the Raptors, Rockets, Nets, and even Hawks.
It’s also in-line with other Philly teams.
Other Philly Teams
The Eagles are roughly top-10 in the NFL in prices. The Phillies and Flyers both hover in the 10-15 range in their respective leagues.
This year, the average price of a Flyers ticket is $88. The Sixers will be $92 next season. Quite fair, given the superior product the Sixers offer over the perpetually middling Flyers (though they appear to be a top 10 team in the league this season).
The Sixers offer the average tenured season ticket holder a 20%-25% discount when renewing, and the new customer rate seems to be about 10% cheaper than the Flyers’ new customer rate.
Season Ticket Demand
I wanted to know what the overall season-ticket picture looks like.
Heck said the Sixers cap season tickets at just over 14,000 seats. The remaining 6,000-7,000 are split across suites and premium sales, group sales, and individual tickets.
The waitlist is over 17,000 names long, and there is an over 90% renewal rate . The wait time varies depending on location. It’s likely longer for the more affordable upper bowl seats than the more expensive lower seats.
About 2,000 individual seats are made available by the Sixers each game, with another roughly 2,000 tickets going up on the secondary market from resellers.
The overall mix appears to be working– the Sixers claim 120-straight sellouts.
Reps are also contacting season ticket holders about playoff pricing. The year over year increase on playoff tickets from 2019 will be less, percentage-wise, than the season ticket increase for 2020– though I haven’t seen exact prices yet.
With one caveat.
If the Sixers make the NBA Finals, customers can expect to see a higher YoY increase. But at that point, I mentioned to Heck, most of us would probably be willing to take out a mortgage to get into the building. There was a knowing laugh.
[UPDATE: Slight clarification here. Correcting the playoff ticket prices. The increase in playoff ticket prices compared to regular season prices will be lower than it was last season. If the Sixers make the Finals, the increase will be exactly the same as it was last season.]
Sixers Are Still a Value
Overall, no one likes to see a ticket price increase. If the team is bad, it’s met with scorn and derision. If a team is good, it’s met with calls of greed.
But the Sixers are turning out an elite level product – despite any nitpicks about recent woes – and are one of the most popular teams in the hottest league on the planet. Philly is a top 5 market, and yet prices for the Sixers – and Eagles, Phillies, and Flyers – remain somewhere just outside the top 10.
In short, these increases are fair… unless you sit courtside, in which case you may have to forego an extra Lambo this year.