As Opening Day nears, Tigers still well short of sellout
Detroit — Baseball’s back.
But the buzz? Well, that’s still MIA.
As of late Monday, at tigers.com, you could still purchase 20 tickets in a single row for Tigers Opening Day, which is Thursday — casting serious doubt on whether the ballclub will legitimately have a packed Comerica Park for a game that, in recent years, often would sell out within hours of tickets going on sale.
The Tigers, officially, still say, “We are tracking towards a sellout.”
“There are tickets available for Opening Day and we encourage fans to visit tigers.com or the Comerica Park box office to secure their seats,” Ron Colangelo, vice president of communications, said Monday.
The 2018 Tigers are widely expected to be bad, really bad, as they go all-in on their rebuild — having traded away a slew of stars, headlined by Justin Verlander, last summer and into this offseason. But the Tigers have been bad before (hi, 2003; you, too, 1990s) and Opening Day still was a big draw.
This year, it doesn’t appear to be.
Consider these anecdotes:
■ For the last several weeks, the Tigers, at tigers.com, have had a pop-up ad that declared, “GOOD SEATS AVAILABLE” for Opening Day. That ad was up as late as Sunday, but it was not up around midday Monday, even though, yes, there still are good seats available.
■ The Tigers, who use dynamic ticket pricing, have cut their Opening Day ticket prices at several levels since the start of February. For instance, on Feb. 1, standing-room tickets were going for $60. Now, they’re going for $45.
■ The Huntington Woods Men’s Club held a live auction last week, with one of the packages featuring 40 Opening Day tickets and a chauffeured bus ride downtown and back. They wanted to start the bidding at $2,000; it went for $550, said Adam Tonge, a Huntington Woods resident who attended the benefit.
■ The secondary market paints a pretty grim picture, too, with hundreds of tickets going for below face value on StubHub as of Monday.
■ While the promotion is not affiliated with the Tigers, Opening Day tickets have been selling on Groupon for weeks and continue to be.
Several non-Tigers factors have been floated as reasons why Opening Day ticket sales are sagging so much this year. Among them: the early season start — March 29 is the earliest Tigers home opener ever, and just the fourth March start — has fans waiting till closer to the game time, because of weather concerns; it’s not a weekend game; it’s not a marquee opponent (Pittsburgh Pirates); it leads into Easter weekend; and this is spring-break week for many schools.
But the prospects of the team, local ticket brokers agree, still is the biggest factor.
“By far the worst it’s been,” said Brian Posey of Okemos’ The Ticket Machine, “since maybe 2004, 2005.
“The get-ins (cheapest prices) have at least creeped up to about $50, which is about half of what it usually is.”
The Tigers are coming off a season in which they had the worst record in baseball (64-98), suffering their most losses since that historically bad 2003 season (43-119). They also traded Verlander, J.D. Martinez, Justin Upton, Ian Kinsler, Justin Wilson and Alex Avila within the last year. The Tigers have missed the playoffs the last three years.
Tigers Opening Day attendance has been at least 44,000, and often more than 45,000, every year since 2005. The only time Opening Day attendance has been under 40,000 at Comerica Park was 2000, when 39,168 showed up. Official seating capacity in 2000 was 40,120. Today, it’s 41,299.
Tigers opening day attendance
2000: 39,168 (defeated Mariners, 5-2)
2001: 40,104 (lost to Twins, 3-2)
2002: 41,248 (lost to Indians, 10-1)
2003: 40,427 (lost to Twins, 3-1)
2004: 42,121 (defeated Twins, 10-6)
2005: 44,105 (defeated Royals, 11-2)
2006: 44,179 (lost to White Sox, 5-3)
2007: 44,297 (lost to Blue Jays, 5-3)
2008: 44,934 (lost to Royals, 5-4)
2009: 44,588 (defeated Rangers, 15-2)
2010: 45,010 (defeated Indians, 5-2)
2011: 44,799 (defeated Royals, 5-2)
2012: 45,027 (defeated Red Sox, 3-2)
2013: 45,051 (defeated Yankees, 8-3)
2014: 45,068 (defeated Royals, 4-3)
2015: 45,030 (defeated Twins, 4-0)
2016: 45,049 (defeated Yankees, 4-0)
2017: 45,013 (defeated Red Sox, 6-5)