Professional baseball rising in popularity

Posted on : 2011-04-21 15:11 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Fans have begun to pay premium prices for tickets to games

By Kim Yang-hee

Efforts are under way to turn pro baseball into a high-class cultural commodity. This is not the baseball of yesteryear where free tickets were issued by the boatload. Since last year, admission rates have been differentiated into weekend and weekday levels, and this season has also witnessed the appearance of high-price tickets in the 70 to 80 thousand won ($65 to $74) range similar to those seen at the opera or theater.

Box seats for the LG Twins, which has its home at Seoul’s Jamsil Baseball Stadium, have nearly sold out through premium season passes at 2.8 million won. Admission when seats are vacant has separated into six price ranges, including on-site sales of 70 thousand won tickets. SK has sold 37 of 39 skybox season passes, which range from 10 million won for an eight-person room to 28 million won for a twenty-four-person room. The two eight-person skyboxes set aside for the general public at 300 thousand won apiece are sold out at every match.

The reason pro baseball fans are willingly opening up their wallets has to do with the popularity of the sport based on the world-class competitive ability shown at two World Baseball Classic events and the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Active efforts to lure fans in, including increases in the number of women’s restrooms at the stadiums and attempts to create a family park environment, are also paying off.

Another factor is the fact that tickets were sold at low prices from the launch of the professional sport through 2003, when prices were varied from one stadium to the next. As recently as 2002, the price for an ordinary seat, which went for 3,000 won in 1982, was selling for 5,000 won, an increase of just 2,000 won in twenty years.

As tickets became increasingly pricey, the average admission rate for a single spectator rocketed from 1,481 won in 1982 to 8,365 won as of Apr. 19 of this year. The rate for the LG Twins in particular stands at a full 9,786 won. This is a difference of over three times the roughly 3,000 won average admission rate for pro football, a competitive event.

The success of the strategy to bring up ticket prices is serving as an effective means of restoring financial soundness to professional baseball, which has endured chronic red ink in past years. While there are differences among the different clubs, ticket sales ordinarily account for around 50 to 60 percent of club revenues. Doosan, which saw 2010 ticket revenues of 8.7 billion won, is aiming at a 10 billion won figure this season.

However, some observers are saying that in addition to raising the ticket prices, there should be efforts to improve the facilities into settings that spectators can enjoy in comfort by increasing parking facilities, improving seat quality, and expanding food and beverage stands. Stadiums in Daegu, Daejeon, and Gwangju with small and outdated facilities will face difficulties in drawing spectators without improvements to their hardware.

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