SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Jazz season-ticket holders will probably notice something about the information they’re receiving about renewing their seats.
For the most part, there’s been a rather large increase — and, unfortunately for those Jazz fans, this is not about the size of text used in the letter.
The Jazz’s annual season-ticket renewal process tipped off Wednesday, and the franchise updated most prices to reflect market value for the 18,306 seats at Vivint Arena.
“We are always sensitive to price increases and having Jazz games remain affordable and accessible for our fans,” Jazz president Steve Starks said. “We’re fortunate to have great interest in the team right now.”
The Jazz have had 44 consecutive sellouts in the renovated arena and rank in the top five for local TV broadcast ratings.
Through extensive research and deliberation, the Jazz determined that a price increase was in order. While that has come to be expected in the sports and entertainment industry, some fans had sticker shock to see the new price of their seats. Some season-ticket packages increased by as much as 250 percent.
The increases hit fans in the upper bowl hard, with some fans grumbling openly on social media about their tickets going from $12 and $18 per game to $30.
“Priced me out,” Jazz fan Tami Johnson said on Twitter, revealing that her $12 seats are now $30. “I disagree with this decision.”
Fan Jeremy Adams said his season-ticket package increased from $528 per seat to $1,320.
“I expected a price increase, in the 8-12 percent range but not 150-200 percent,” he said. “I am crushed. I love the Jazz and will miss watching them.”
Other responses ranged from “priced out but understand it” because of the corporations that buy tickets to “insulting” to “this is a rip off of the city (because of the arena subsidy) and the fans” to showing sympathy for fans and calling it “garbage.”
“I feel like it came out of nowhere,” Jazz fan Ryan Mattson said. “My last few seasons were $10.50, $11, $12, now $30. If it would have been $15 I wouldn’t have batted an eye. Twenty dollars, I’d understand as that is what I try and sell my tickets at that I can’t use. Twelve dollars was a steal. Thirty dollars is outrageous.”
Not all fans were ticked off at the organization.
“This seems to just be market correction,” one fan wrote.
“Fans have been spoiled for a very long time with low ticket prices and that's really great,” another fan wrote. “But we as fans can't demand a better, more comfortable arena and then be shocked when tickets go up. It's just silly.”
The Jazz, who spent $125 million on that renovation, offered multiple reasons for the changes.
For one thing, the franchise decided that it was no longer feasible to continue allowing 190 accounts to only pay $6 per seat. That was the cheapest price in the NBA and had been in place since a $5 promotional ticket price based on the No. 5 pick in the draft in 2014.
The Utah organization also claimed it’s trying to curb gouging on the secondary market by better regulating the price of all tickets. Though the Jazz don’t have access to what happens to all tickets once they’re purchased, they receive extensive data from Ticketmaster if fans resell tickets through the team’s ticketing partner. Data reveals that the $6 seats are being resold for an average of $16 for the lower-tiered games and for $54 on the high-demand games.
In theory, this means the Jazz will get the price difference upfront instead of season-ticket holders through the secondary market on a game-by-game basis.
The league advised the Jazz to streamline ticketing prices, according to Chris Barney, senior vice president of ticketing and premium seating, so they scaled down from seven price points in the upper bowl to four. One area in the upper bowl actually experienced a price decrease, from $35 per seat to $30.
Barney assured media in a conference call that this was not a "money grab" by the Miller family and Jazz organization. Rather, it was based on data and market value.
The Jazz are trying to individually work with as many season-ticket holders as possible to accommodate them. The team has created different partial-season packages (at $10 per ticket) and will offer a fan pass that at minimum guarantees a standing-room-only spot but could result in a lower-bowl seat depending on availability.
"The affordability measured against other sports and entertainment options, there is an increase, yes," Barney said, "but ... it's still affordable."
Although they used to be the biggest bargain in the NBA, Barney said the Jazz continue to compare positively to other teams in their market range, including San Antonio (cheapest upper-bowl seat is $28), Charlotte, Memphis, Portland, Oklahoma City and New Orleans.
The Jazz continue to allocate about 2,100 upper-bowl seats at a discounted rate to Junior Jazz participants to nearly every home game. That’s unique in the NBA and, while it is a long-term investment in young fans, cuts into the team’s ability to fully capitalize as much as it could on a nightly basis with such high demand and fewer seats available.15 comments on this story
The Jazz point out that they still offer affordable entertainment on a comparative basis locally. The least expensive season-ticket price for the 2019-20 season will be $15, which is lower than University of Utah football ($39), BYU football ($20), Salt Lake Stallions ($19) and Real Salt Lake ($16) and just above the Utah Grizzlies ($14), Salt Lake Bees ($8) and BYU/Utah basketball ($3).
Those facts aren't going to console some Jazz fans, though. Richard Johnson tweeted that he believes a 150 percent increase is “price gouging,” argued that the team shouldn’t worry about tickets being resold if the arena is full and voiced concern over increases in concession prices over the years.
He added, “You’re making (it) harder and harder to attend games.”