Over at Sounder At Heart, Dave Clark put together a great summary of the season ticket price increases Sounder fans saw yesterday and the reason many fans are upset. In the midst of an economic recession, ticket prices increased between 20 and 25 percent, under the guise of a "blowout friendly" that is yet unknown. This year, the Sounders host three friendlies, with the third -- and most expensive at three times the price of the other two -- coming late in the season, during a packed schedule, against Club Deportivo Guadalajara.
Aside from the price increase, I experienced a different kind of shock upon seeing the renewal forms. Three friends and I bought half-season tickets in 2009, the Sounders opening season. The Sounders opened more seats behind the south goal in July of 2009 and we jumped at the chance to purchase seats. When it came time to buy full season tickets for 2010, we "renewed" paying the full price instead of getting a renewal discount because we hadn't bought the full season package the year before. We purchased tickets with the promise that we would be treated as renewals if we were to buy season tickets for the 2011 season.
When the invoice came yesterday, we held up our end of the bargain but the Sounders did not.
A look at the Sounders website shows a change from a few weeks ago. Last year, tickets were listed under two prices: renewal and new. Today, tickets are still listed under two prices, but the terms have changed. Now, the discounted price only applies to 2+ year renewals, while the full-price tickets are listed as 1+ years/new.
The four of us are still treated as renewals in every other way. The Sounders stepped up to the plate and offered a credit for the lackluster performance at home against the Los Angeles Galaxy this year, which shows up on our invoice. We still get first crack at our seats and are offered tickets ahead of the general public. Why, then, are we not considered for a renewal price?
The difference between a renewal and a new ticket was $103 last year. This year, the difference between the 2+ year renewal price and 1+/new price is $85. After being loyal to the organization for the last year and a half, we're being left out in the cold where it matters most: in the pocket book.
Between raising prices and changing the terms of eligibility for discounted tickets, the Seattle Sounders dropped the ball in a big way. Less than a week before they open the 2010 MLS Cup Playoffs against the LA Galaxy, the Sounders have created an uproar in much of the fanbase and flushed much of the goodwill created by their actions and dedication to the fans in their first two years of existence.
I'll still renew my tickets, largely because I love the team and environment surrounding games, but I now harbor resentment towards the front office for their actions this week. As someone who has been loyal to the team from the beginning -- buying tickets as soon as I moved back to Seattle -- I should be treated just as any other season ticket holder that renews their tickets for the 2011 season.