- Jon Greenberg, Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
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Without any fanfare, the Chicago Bears have significantly raised single-game ticket prices.
Chicago media received an annual email about single-game tickets going on sale this Friday, but the range of prices seemed skewed compared to the past, with no explanation. Last year, the cheapest ticket for both season-ticket holders and single-game purchasers was $74 for 400-level seats. This season, that price jumped to $101 for single games, as compared to $76 for season-ticket holders.
According to a chart on the Bears' website, every single-game ticket will be $25 more expensive than a season ticket, from the "cheap" seats in the 400 level to the pricey club seats, which go up to $410 for single-game purchases. Season tickets have been increased between $2 and $10 for non-premium seats.
Last season, the Bears' average non-premium ticket price was listed at $101.55, fifth highest in football, according to the Team Marketing Report, which produces the annual Fan Cost Index survey (fancostexperience.com) before the beginning of each season. The NFL average was $77.36.
Bears vice president of sales and marketing Chris Hibbs said this price increase is to benefit the team's strong season-ticket base. Given the team's popularity, it's doubtful it will affect many purchases.
"Our focus has been around adding benefits and amenities for our season-ticket holders," Hibbs wrote in an e-mail. "They should be paying less for their tickets than what the general public pays. We're very lucky to have a vast majority of Soldier Field filled with our loyal season ticket holders, so the quantity of tickets available in the public on-sale is limited to a few thousand per game. But we feel it's important that the public has an opportunity. The reality is we could sell them all as season tickets if we wanted."
Most teams, regardless of what sport, offer discounts for season-ticket holders. In Chicago, the White Sox use dynamic pricing for single-game tickets, often with large increases from the season-ticket prices. Just this season, the Cubs increased prices of single-game tickets by a couple dollars to similarly "reward" season-ticket holders. The Blackhawks and Bulls have cheaper ticket prices for season-ticket holders.
Despite being in the second largest NFL market, and hosting a fervent fanbase, the renovated Soldier Field has the smallest seating capacity (around 61,500) in the NFL, creating an even greater demand.
Despite the sport's overwhelming popularity, NFL attendance has declined in recent years, 4.5 percent since 2007, according to a Wall Street Journal story. The Bears' average has dipped by 13 fans in the same time. They drew an average of 62,145 last year, 101 percent of capacity. The Bears drew 62,195 in 2010 and 62,250 in 2009, 62,034 in 2008 and 62,158 in 2007.
In 2007, the Bears' average ticket was $84.89, compared to $67.11 for the league.
The Bears are making tickets considerably more expensive for non-season-ticket holders.