"We're looking at other ways to utilize the ballpark for sure," Indians team president Mark Shapiro said this week, "and for other ways within our gameday operation to generate additional revenue. But in the end, the most important thing we need to do is continue to give people more reasons to come to games.
"That's the key. The most important reason is on the field, but we need to seek other reasons to get people to want to come."
Offering more affordable options for season ticket holders is one way. Season tickets are currently available, while single-game tickets will become available beginning at 10 a.m. ET on Feb. 28. The Indians open the 2011 season at home against the rival White Sox on April 1.
One option within the season ticket system this year is a package that offers bleacher seats for only $9 per ticket. For $1,458, a full-season bleacher season ticket holder can receive two tickets for 81 home games, free membership to the Terrace Club, complimentaty suite rental for one game and complimentary club seats for one game, 67 exchange dates and access to exclusive season ticket holder events.
The bleachers package also includes an option for an interest-free payment plan of $243 per month through the end of June. For a group of four that wants to split the two season tickets, each group would pay just $60.75 per month on the payment plan for 20 games.
"The $9 bleacher season ticket is another opportunity for families, friends and business associates to enjoy Indians baseball at Progressive Field at an affordable price with tremendous added benefits," Vic Gregovits, Indians senior vice president of sales and marketing, said in a release.
"In addition, all lower bowl full-season ticket plans are priced 20 percent to 60 percent lower than the same seat at the single-game price. It is a terrific value for your investment."
The Indians are offering a buy one, get one free opportunity in both the lower bowl (infield lower box) and upper deck (view box) sections. A pair of infield lower box seats cost $2,592 and a pair of view box seats cost $2,106.
Similar to the bleachers options, the lower bowl and upper deck packages include two seats for all 81 home dates, free membership to the Terrace Club, complimentary one-game access to a suite and club seats, 67 exchange dates and access to season ticket holder events.
The packages also include "loaded tickets," or $2 per ticket per game for use at concession or merchadise stands. There is also an interest-free payment plan through the end of June, costing $432 per month for the next six months for infield lower box seats and $351 per month for the view box seats.
Additional season ticket opportunities include 40-game plans, 20-game plans and a "Perfect 10" voucher pack (available for 80 home games, excluding Opening Day). Information on the pricing pans for these season ticket options can be found online at indians.com.
The "Perfect 10" vouchers are available online at indians.com/perfect10, as well as at all Indians team shops and select Northeast Ohio Discount Drug Mart stores. More details on the benefits and reduced prices for the 2011 season ticket packages can be found online at indians.com/jointhetribe or by calling 216-420-HITS (4487).
Nearly half of Progressive Field's seats have reduced prices for the upcoming season and 22 percent of the ballpark has seen price reductions of $8 or more. It is one way the Indians are trying to overcome decreased attendance. In 2010, Cleveland finished last in Major League Baseball in attendance.
With a total home attendance around 1.39 million last season, the Indians fell under 2 million fans for the second consecutive year. Dating back to 2002, the Tribe has seen its season attendance dip under 2 million five times in nine years. That's a far cry from the 455 consecutive sellouts the team enjoyed from June 1995-April 2001. During that seven-year span, the Indians drew more than 3 million fans six times.
One result of the diminished attendance has been a necessity to scale back on the club's payroll for the time being.
The team is young and in a rebuilding period, so the Indians feel it makes sense to hold off on big spending until they are entering another winning cycle. It wasn't that long ago that Cleveland was a World Series contender -- the team had the best record in baseball in 2007 -- and the club feels its young nucleus has promise for the near future.
Given the recent economic issues that have hit Cleveland and the country as a whole, the team is not expecting fans to suddenly flood the ballpark to the tune of 3 million at the turnstiles. The Tribe does believe, however, that its continued efforts behind the scenes will hopefully produce new ways to attract more fans to Progressive Field.
One way to do that is to adjust ticket prices. Another is to explore new opportunities for fans during the season and in the winter. The biggest example of that this offseason was Snow Days, which turned the ballpark into a winter wonderland that included a tubing hill, an ice-skating track and other winter-themed activities for families.
It was an experiment that drew more than 50,000 fans to the park from Nov. 26 through Sunday, when the stadium normally would have sat empty. The Indians are hoping to make Snow Days more profitable in future offseasons, but the club still enjoyed the initial success of the event this winter.
"We're trying to build a family-friendly place to be entertained," Shapiro said. "Snow Days kept the Indians in the conversation or at the top of minds at a time when we obviously haven't been active from a player standpoint.
"There was a lot more attention and focus than we would've received if we didn't do it. It obviously utilized the building at a time when it would've been dormant."