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Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Sign of the times

By Bruce Levine

The Chicago White Sox-Los Angeles Dodgers series should have been one of the top draws for the South Siders when it comes to ticket sales and a packed ballpark.

The Sox had a perfect scenario with the beginning of summer, schools finally closed, and the NBA and NHL seasons finished. Interleague play, the allure of the great Dodgers franchise and Manny Ramirez, made this series seem like a slam dunk sellout. Unfortunately for the White Sox, a poor record and the combination of Manny on the suspended list and a "premiere ticket" price contributed to a horrendous attendance of 22,000 on what was a perfect summer evening for baseball.

For regular-season games at U.S. Cellular Field, a lower box seat costs $53. That same seat costs $57 for "prime games," which is the middle range for the Sox, and $67 for "premiere games" like the Dodgers series. That variance of $14 per seat affects ticket prices for seats around the entire ballpark.

The "premiere" games this season, or top-priced tickets, are for Opening Day, the Dodgers and Cubs series in June, the Yankees series in July, the Red Sox series in August, and "Elvis Night" on August 21, an extremely popular annual Sox event is a premiere night as well.

The White Sox's poor record right now is probably the No. 1 contributing factor to this unbelievably low turnout at the gate for the Dodgers series, so White Sox marketing should not be blamed for this. With the new Sox-Dodgers partnership sharing a spring training facility in Glendale, Ariz, the connection to the two clubs made this series all that more appealing. And when you throw in the fact that the White Sox and Dodgers played in the World Series exactly 50 years ago, you can see why the team looked at this as a premiere series.

Major League Baseball has a tiered ticket structure for most of the teams, but with an economy that's still in the dumper, MLB owners are fearful that fans will not show up at the ballparks when teams start to fall out of pennant races in late-July and early-August. This season might be a wake-up call for all teams to lower tickets prices for 2010 and beyond.