By Alan Pergament
I received my season ticket renewal information from the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday and immediately reflected on my conversation last week with former Channel 7 Sports Director Rick Azar.
If you missed Sunday's newspaper, Azar reminisced about a commentary he did decades ago when the Bills raised their ticket prices.
"Hey, the Buffalo Bills can charge anything they want," said Azar, "and if you don't want to pay it, nobody is holding a gun to your head to pay it. Don't buy a ticket."
The commentary, which didn't please the Bills public relations staff at the time because of the suggestion fans not buy tickets, certainly has relevance this year as well.
Because of my seat location and with the Bills no longer offering an early renewal discount of $3 per ticket as they did a year ago, my tickets are going up 17 percent from a year ago. That doesn't count the extra home game this season now that the Toronto series has been "postponed." If you count the additional game -- which I think would be unfair to do -- my season tickets will cost 30 percent more than they did a year ago.
I'm a little surprised that an increase between 17 percent and 30 percent hasn't gotten the type of media attention it probably would have gotten in the Azar era.
I don't have a problem with the increase from an average of $77 to to an average of $90 per seat because I sit near the 50-yard line and realize that fans who live in larger markets can pay twice as much or more than I do. I also am happy that the Bills dropped the foolish Toronto game, which put them at a competitive disadvantage. And I read how many millions former Bills safety Jairus Byrd got to sign with the New Orleans Saints Tuesday so I know decent players don't come cheaply these days.
However, I started thinking what the new variable pricing for games this season means for the two preseason games that I have to pay for as a season ticketholder. We used to call them exhibition games. They really are pretty much worthless on the secondary market. I practically have to pay someone to take them off my hands. OK, I exaggerate a little.
If variable pricing means that non-season ticketholders will pay for a ticket in relation to the worth of a game, the exhibition probably should cost about $25 a ticket. Two tickets for those two exhibition games would be worth $100 instead of $360.
I talked to my Bills representative Tuesday and was told that the two preseason games would have a much lower value on the ticket now than regular season games and that lower value would be offset by the higher value on the ticket for the eight regular season games.
The Bills representative couldn't tell me what the price will be on my tickets for each game because the schedule hasn't come out yet.
I have my idea about what the price of a regular game ticket should be. If you deduct the $100 I feel the exhibition -- eh preseason -- games are worth, I'm paying $1,700 for two tickets for each of the eight real games. That averages out to about $106 per ticket. If you put a price of $50 on the exhibition games, the average for the real games would be $100 a ticket.
So I would hope the variable price on my ticket would average at least $106 and the premium games would approach $150 a ticket.
I have heard some radio callers and hosts suggest that a Bills televised night game would be a premium game no matter the opponent or the time of the season the game is played because everyone wants to go to those games.
That's not my experience. I know a lot of season ticketholders who consider the night games a nuisance that interferes with their work the next day. And if memory serves me, it hasn't been easy to sell night games, which can be rowdier than Sunday games that are no walk in the park. The Bills would be making a mistake to make any televised night game a premium game if they want it to be a sellout.
However, I'm rooting for them to do just that since I most likely would sell them at premium prices to offset the cost of the worthless exhibition games.
Then as Rick Azar put it so well, it will be up to other fans to decide whether they want to buy my tickets near the 50-yard line or not.
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