Pirates playoff ticket prices are set

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Every year in mid-May, Pirates president Frank Coonelly receives the Major League Baseball postseason manual, containing rules and deadlines governing how organizations must prepare for potential playoff games.

"Every year, I took it and tossed it into the corner," Coonelly said. "Last year, I took it and started dusting it off. This year, we've been very pleased to actually have to go through it in detail."

The Pirates Friday announced postseason ticket information in addition to their 2013 ticket prices, some of which increased as part of a plan to move gradually closer to the rest of the industry.

"Our fans have waited far too long to get a letter like they will receive in the mail [today]," Coonelly said. "They deserve to have that letter."

The Pirates entered a game Friday night in St. Louis with a 65-53 record, six games back of the Cincinnati Reds in the National League Central Division and a game ahead of the Cardinals and San Francisco Giants in the race for the second wild-card spot.

The new collective bargaining agreement added a second wild card in each league, and the teams that earn those two spots will meet in a one-game playoff. The winner will proceed to a division series.

The Pirates, Coonelly said, had to submit their ticket-pricing plan for a potential wild-card game, division series and championship series to MLB for approval. Major League Baseball determines World Series ticket prices.

"Our pricing is at the low end of postseason pricing for the teams that are close enough to making the postseason that Major League Baseball requires you to provide them with postseason pricing," Coonelly said.

Season-ticket holders have the first chance at postseason tickets and can purchase them at reduced prices. They also can buy individual playoff tickets before they go on sale to the public in late September.

"Those are the fans that have been with us through thick and thin, and far too much thin," Coonelly said.

Season-ticket holders can purchase upper-deck tickets for as low as $12 for the wild-card and division series games. Dugout box seats cost $50, and the pricing tops out with the Lexus Club seats at $235.

The Pirates have not made the playoffs since 1992, which was also the previous season in which they finished with a winning record. Pirates executive vice president and chief marketing officer Lou DePaoli said, however, that the Pirates began planning for this eventuality a few years ago, when they began sending out season-ticket renewal information in August.

"Looking long term, which is what we're trying to do here, we said at some point, we want this to be combined with somebody's playoff invoice," he said.

Coonelly said conversations with other clubs that made the playoffs in recent years aided the process, and some Pirates employees -- including DePaoli, who worked for the Florida Marlins when they won the World Series in '97 -- have prior experience with postseason planning.

"We had pretty much a lot of folks last year at this point in the front office going through the process of setting things up because we were [in the race] in July," DePaoli said. "We had to at least get the ball rolling. We had a lot of things built up just in case. This year, now we take it to the next level."

The Pirates targeted their '13 ticket-price increases, for the most part, at individual tickets rather than season tickets, Coonelly said. The organization plans to raise prices incrementally after a 10-year period in which they stayed the same.

"We need to move ourselves closer to the industry norms, particularly the divisional opponents like St. Louis, like Milwaukee, like Cincinnati," Coonelly said. "But we weren't going to attempt to make up for 10 years in one year."

According to Team Marketing Report, a publisher of sports marketing and sponsorship information, the average price of a Pirates ticket will be $17.21 in '13, up from $16.11 this season. Compared to '12 averages, the '13 figure would rank fourth lowest in the league.

Dugout box tickets will cost $48 when bought in advance, up from $45 this season. Outfield reserve tickets increased by $2, as did PBC section tickets. Full season-ticket holders will save an average of 27 percent over those buying individual tickets.

The Pirates also designated opening day and Saturday home games as premium games and will charge more due to higher demand. A baseline box seat, for example, will cost $43 for a premium game when bought in advance, $36 for other games. Outfield reserve tickets increased by $3 for premium games, Lexus Club seats by $15.

"It's an opportunity for us to turn around and try to right-size the market pricing there as well," DePaoli said.

Coonelly said attendance this season has exceeded the club's projections, and that the increased prices last season contributed to the payroll flexibility that enabled the team to trade for A.J. Burnett and Wandy Rodriguez.

"No question it helps, and no question that the team's play this year, the additional resources that that brings in, the additional attendance that we've received this year by the great support we've received from our fans, will give us additional flexibility as we move into 2013."


Bill Brink: bbrink@post-gazette.com and on Twitter @BrinkPG.


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