Are 2018-2019 Wizards Season Tickets Worth the Money?

Are 2018-2019 Wizards Season Tickets Worth the Money?

I am a 2-year Wizards season-ticket holder. No, I don’t currently have season tickets, which might compel you to describe me instead as an ex-season-ticket holder. I, however, subscribe to the theory that season-ticket holder status – sometimes used as a badge of one’s fandom – is more akin to martial arts belts, which are progressively earned through cumulating experience, than to Costco membership, which you either pay annually to retain or you don’t. I contend that you can’t lose your season-ticket holder status, you can only develop it, moving up to higher ranks through additional years of patronage.

All this is to say that while I’ve remained stagnant as a Level 2 Wizards STH, I still harbor ambitions of someday returning to the DC12 Club and graduating to the higher ranks of its membership. Alas, Ted Leonsis’s seemingly annual price hikes, combined with the financial responsibilities of new fatherhood, are pushing that goal farther and farther into the realm of distant pipe dreams. Nevertheless, I’ve persisted in the practice I’ve maintained over the past few seasons of documenting the individual game ticket prices for the purpose of evaluating whether Wizards season tickets are or are not a good deal. Here’s the analysis for this upcoming season:

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Methodology: Each year, including this one, my approach to collecting and analyzing ticket data has grown more sophisticated. In the past, I did my best to monitor ticket prices to find the best deal possible for each home game for two tickets in one of the Lower End sections – since this is where I used to have tickets (Section 117 Row S represent!!). This year, I managed to cobble together an application that pulls statistics of the ticket inventory available on StubHub, letting me see the cheapest available tickets for every section in Capital One Arena for each upcoming game. Not only does this give me more accurate and comprehensive data for this year’s analysis, I’m also now able to evaluate the STH-decision for every section in the arena.

For this analysis, I’m only focusing on the sections in the lower bowl of the arena because, let’s be honest, it doesn’t take much critical thinking to see that upper level season-tickets are a god-awful proposition. Why anybody would pay over $1,500 – much less the $3,200 some upper sections cost (WTF??) – for a worst experience than you can get from the comfort of your couch at home, is beyond me. For that money you can get good to great seats to a bunch of good games, so why opt instead to lock yourself into paying full price for the shittiest nosebleeds to all the crappiest games? Seriously why?

Regular-Season Numbers: The essential question when evaluating the value of season tickets is this: does buying a season ticket package get me cheaper tickets over the year than buying tickets individually?

Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to each purchasing strategy, such as the flexibility of buying tickets on a by-game basis, versus the pride and perks that come with being a STH. Putting all the fringe benefits aside, however, let’s just look at which option is cheaper by comparing the STH prices to the prices you could pay on the secondary market (i.e. NBA Ticket Exchange, Stubhub) to get into each game. The spreadsheet below shows a summary-level view of this comparison:

STH High Level

This isn’t an exact science, as the STH prices we’re citing are the cheapest ones for each section, as are the secondary market prices. There is likely to be rather large of prices within a single section. However, it is noteworthy that the STH discount is universally less than 7%, and even negative for the most expensive sections.

These numbers will be disconcerting for incumbent and prospective STHs. When you purchase professional basketball in bulk, you’d hope that you’re at least getting a better deal than the guy sitting next to you who’ there for his one game of the season. It seems that Ted has set the STH prices to purposefully make these numbers line up pretty closely, possibly to put upward pressure on the prices of resale tickets – which routinely undercut Monumental’s individual game prices. Strategically planned by Leonsis or not, at face value, the economics of season tickets are rather lackluster in financial appeal.

Click here for a detailed view of the STH vs per-game price comparison, with a breakdown of the secondary market prices for every home game.

A Tale of Two Markets: If season tickets save you very little money compared to buying tickets on a per-game basis, then why does anybody do it?

Because the costs of admission to the premium games are so high. More than any other American professional sports league, the NBA is star-driven. Moreover, the average sports fan only knows and appreciates the very top echelon of All-Star players, which constitutes only a handful of guys. The result? Rabid demand and extraordinary prices for only the most marquee matchups on the Wizards schedule. Everybody wants to see the Cavaliers and the Warriors, sending the prices for those games skyrocketing.

The table below shows the prices on the secondary market for the Top 7 games by ticket price on the Wizards calendar. Cells highlighted in green show where STH prices constitute at least a 25% saving over individual game prices.

STH Top 7

This is perhaps Monumental’s biggest selling point. A Wizards fan (probably more casual than diehard) wants to see the squad take on the NBA heavyweights, but every time he looks for tickets to one of the good upcoming games, the costs are crazy high. He starts envying the folks who got into these games for a fraction of the prices he’s looking at, and considers signing up for season ticks for the upcoming season.

There is a flip-side to this pricing dynamic, however. It’s true that being a STH gets you a great deal for the most hotly anticipated tilts of the year, but it also locks you into a bad bargain for a larger slew of less stellar matchups. The table below shows the prices on the secondary market for the Bottom 12 games by ticket price on the Wizards schedule. Cells highlighted in red show where individual game prices constitute at least a 25% saving over STH prices.

STH Bottom 12

As you can see, over the course of a season, any money/savings you accrue on the top tier games are wiped out by what you lose/overpay on the games at the lower end of the spectrum. Thus, it’s wiser to get your tickets a game at a time, even if you really want to go to all the expensive contests – you may pay a surcharge for those games, but at least you don’t get stuck with a heavy bill for tickets to games nobody else wants to attend.

Playoff Numbers: If there’s any potentially redeeming quality about the DC12 Club, it’s the cheap access STHs get to the Wizard’s home playoff games. This pitch is what got me to originally sign-up for season membership, and the lack of this benefit after the 15-16 season is what made it a no-brainer not to renew that year. Of course this playoff benefit has to be taken into account when evaluating the worth of season tickets.

The value of the perk is a tricky thing to gauge, however, when the Wizard’s chances for playoff success, and even the identity of their potential opponents, is very up in the air. How many home playoff games will we get? Will it be one series worth or three? Will the series stretch to Game 7 or will be swept out? And equally important, what team will we be matched up with? Any DC playoff ticket will be a hot commodity, no doubt, but there’s a huge difference between the frenzied buzz that would surround a matchup with Lebron’s Cavs and the modest intrigue that we might expect from a first-round matchup with the Pacers.

These things are impossible to know. The best we can do is use the data we have to project the playoff ticket prices, and then keep a close eye on the standings. The table below gives a rough estimate of how much STH access to playoff tickets are worth for a 1st round series against our various potential opponents. Note: These numbers are calculated by STH price minus secondary market price (assuming playoff tickets on StubHub, etc. go for 1.5X the price of the identical regular season match-ups) times an expected 2.5 home games.

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The figures show that there is a very wide range of outcomes. Depending on who we face-off against in the playoffs, and whether or not we beat them, and if we do beat them then who we face-off against next, the yield from the STH playoff access can fall anywhere between minimal and gargantuan. The ideal situation from this perspective would be for the WizKids to fall to #7 to take on the Celtics in the first-round, beat them in six games, and then go on to play the Cavs in a 3-seed vs 7-seed matchup. The nightmare situation would be for the Wizards to get bounced by the Pacers in a first-round series.

You’ll have to decide for yourself what you want to make out of this playoff benefit. You certainly have to take it into consideration, and there is the possibility of it yielding tremendous upside. However, there is so much luck and uncertainty involved that banking on any playoff returns is as good as gambling.

Wrap-Up: In the end, the analysis shows that Wizards season tickets – especially after price hikes – are a poor deal, with the one caveat that a favorable combination of playoff success and lucrative match-ups could potentially push the numbers from red into the black.

For me, though I’d love to be able to call myself a STH, the flexibility and value you get from cherry picking tickets on secondary markets is too good to pass up. Low prices for unheralded matchups are a gold mine for hardcore fans – there’s no such thing as a bad game when the main attraction for you is always the home team. And the ignorance of the average fan means you can score cheap tickets to great games – you mean I can see Anthony Davis, the Greek Freak, and the Raptors all for cheaper than STHs? Yes, please!

Maybe one day I’ll be able to rejoin the likes of the DC12 club. Barring a major price decrease, the introduction of some additional value-add benefits, or the serious potential for a playoff run to the NBA Finals, I don’t see it happening any time soon.

Are Wizards Season Tickets a Good Deal? Here’s a Detailed Analysis

Click here to read the new analysis for the 2018-2019 NBA season.

If you go to a few Washington Wizards games at the Verizon Center, you might discover that there is a peculiar breed of fan. These fans seemingly attend every single game, even the mid-week contests against Eastern Conference bottom feeder. These fans appear to have some obsessive compulsion that mandates that they always sit in the exact same seats at every game. It seems that each and every one of these fans owns the same red Wizards sport jacket, and you might hear them refer to a mysterious society called the “DC 12 Club”. Though all the evidence points to these fans being members of some satanic basketball cult, the truth is that these fans are in fact Washington Wizards season ticket holders.

For most sports fans from the DC area, the idea of a season-ticket holder is probably at best a very abstract concept. It’s hard enough to get folks to attend one Wizards game, so the prospect of willingly signing on to pay for admission to 41 regular season NBA games plus an additional 3 pre-season exhibition games is beyond inconceivable. Even for big Wizards fans, this is a tough sell. Having been a season-ticket holder for two years before opting out after the catastrophe that was last season, I can attest to the fact being a season ticket holder yields no value in and of itself. Individual game tickets, purchased from Ted’s Monumental Sports or elsewhere, get you into the arena just as well as season tickets, and they even grant you access to the very same game. The only rational reason for not buying Wizards tickets on a strictly game-by-game basis is that you expect to receive a quantity discount.

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And yet, Ted Leonsis will soon announce the prices for next year’s Wizards season tickets. For incumbent STH’s, the news compels them to decide whether or not to re-up for another year. For the less-invested fans like myself, this is an invitation to join the likes of the DC 12 Club members.

Is there any sensible reason that somebody would purchase Wizards season tickets? How much money can you actually save? Are there circumstances where it makes sense to make this investment? Is it possible to actually make money of this deal? Let’s take a look:

 

How Much Can I Save With Season Ticket versus buying Individual Game Tickets?

For two years, I had season tickets in Section 117 Row S. These tickets were in the sections behind the basket, which from my experience gave you the best value for your dollar. I was a single grad school student, so I had plenty of time to attend games and no one to answer to about my how I spent my money. Still, like even the most ardent fan, I didn’t have the time nor the finances to attend every home game. So I attended about a third of the games and sold the rest of the tickets on the secondary market, trying to strike a balance between attending good games and recuperating a decent amount of my costs. Being a business student, I of course tracked what I paid versus what I made back, to gauge if the season ticket deal made sense for me going forward.

This current season, after a second consecutive year of price increases for my seats, is my first one back to buying tickets one game at a time. Still, I’ve been tracking what the prices are in my old section for each game on the secondary markets (I buy on NBA Ticket Exchange), versus what I would have paid for a year’s worth of tickets. Those numbers are in the spreadsheet below.

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What you might be surprised to see by looking at the above table, is that in reality, there is a quantity surcharge instead of a quantity discount that came with buying Wizards season tickets this past season. Simply put, Ted Leonsis priced his tickets above market value. You could have bought two tickets for every game individually and saved $175 as compared to signing a deal for season tickets. That’s without even taking into consideration the fact that in all likelihood you’d have zero interest in going to many of these games, chiefly three worthless preseason games.

Regardless of what combination of games you wanted to attend, it was always cheaper to buy those tickets individually. STH overpaid for the majority of this year’s games. To put this into perspective, here is a lineup of Wizards games you could have gone to for $1,250, less than a third of the STH price: Raptors, Hawks, Rockets, Cavaliers, Suns, Spurs, Magic, Nuggets, Bucks, Hornets, Timberwolves, 76ers, Trailblazers, Grizzlies, Celtics, Pelicans, and Thunder. Even if you threw in the outrageously overpriced Warriors game, you’d still have paid only 40% of the STH price.

Luckily for fans locked into this deal, the game against the Golden State Warriors and two versus the Cleveland Cavaliers helped make the returns more favorable. Tickets for just those three games on the secondary market went for $1,100, a full $800 more than STH paid for them. On the flipside, it’s hard to be okay paying one-hundred dollars for a Monday night tilt against the Sacramento Kings in November when the guy sitting next to you paid only twenty-eight bucks.

 

How Will Likely Price Increases Figure Into the Equation?

Seeing how Ted Leonsis raised Wizards season ticket prices even in the midst of last year’s miserable season, it’s a near certainty that he’ll continue to up the prices now that the team is experiencing success once again. For season ticket holders that’s obviously bad news.  Now, it might make logical sense that a better team should translate to higher ticket prices, at both the individual game and full-season level. However, the truth is that the relationship between on court success and fan support for basketball in DC is not so perfectly linear.

The Verizon Center has lousy attendance, and we’ve seen in the past that not even a deep playoff run is going to do much to change that. If the median market for individual game tickets does see a bump, it will probably be offset by lower prices at the highest end of the spectrum. Resale prices this year for the Warriors game are astronomical, due to the intrigue of seeing Kevin Durant in his first return to DC since joining the Bandwagon team of the moment (who btw we should boo mercilessly). But those tickets priced should come back closer to Earth next year when that novelty wears off a little bit.

All in all, any raise in the price of season tickets are probably going to mean a worse deal for season ticket holders. Every extra dollar you pay for season tickets is probably just one more dollar that you’re overpaying.

 

What About Buying Season Tickets and Selling Them?

Based on regular season games, you should not try to do this. You’ll be able to accomplish this, you just won’t make any money.

The figures in the chart above are what buyers pay for tickets on the secondary market. The amount that sellers make is typically, at best, twenty percent lower once the selling platform takes out their fees or commissions. So that $4,075 figure that I could have paid for individual tickets would translate closer to $3,200 for the people who sold those ticket. You don’t a business degree to know that that is not a good return on investment.

 

How Do Playoff Tickets Play Into the Picture?

Considering the numbers in the chart above, it probably seems like a no-brainer that Wizards season tickets are an all-around terrible idea for fans, right? Well no, not exactly. There is one season ticket holder perk, really the only one that has any value at all, that can potentially alter the balance of this equation: guaranteed tickets to this year’s home playoff games. Those fans that commit to the full slate of next season’s tickets (sorry all you current STH’s, you get nothing) receive the privilege of buying tickets to all of this year’s postseason games at a low, fixed price. For the lower level sections behind the basket, that fixed price has historically been somewhere between $45 and $65 per ticket depending on the round, which is considerably less than what these playoff ticket will go for on Stubhub, NBA Ticket Exchange, etc. when the Wizards hype starts really rolling.

Since we’ve been defining the value of season tickets by the difference between what season ticket holders pay and what one pays on the secondary market, these cheap playoff tickets make a season ticket package more attractive. Depending on who the Wizards match up with in the playoffs, how many home games they get in each round, and how deep they ultimately go, it is possible that this playoff ticket perk will yield enough value to actually make season tickets worthwhile. If nothing else, this perk offers enough to make you take a second look. Here are some estimates for how much playoff tickets in my old Section 117 could be worth versus what they’ll cost DC 12 Club members:

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What is the Final Verdict?

So what’s the final verdict on whether or not Wizards season tickets for next season will ultimately be worth the investment? Well, like most things in life it depends. In this case it depends on how far you think the team is going to make it in the playoffs. If you think the team is doomed for a first-round disappointment, then you can easily rule against season-tickets (then again, if you think this is how our season ends then you’re obviously not a real fan, so why would you even want season tickets?). If you think the Wizards will repeat recent postseason history by winning the first-round and then fizzling out in the second, then you probably still want to stay away from season tickets. That result will bring you some value as compared to buying individual tickets, but certainly not enough to warrant having to start making payments now for tickets to games months down the line.

However, if you are bullish on the team and foresee them charging into the Eastern Conference Finals to challenge the reigning champ, then this season ticket package is almost too good of a deal to pass up. A series against Lebron and Kyrie, one of the greatest to ever do it and one of the most overrated to ever do it, will be the biggest sporting event of the moment, not to mention possibly the biggest ever in DC. Watching those games would be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and getting those tickets for cheap will save you a pretty penny if you go to the game, or make you one if you opt to sell. The numbers show that Wizards season tickets derive their value from the chance to buy playoff tickets for cheap. Therefore, this purchase decision is one that needs to be made on a year-by-year basis, depending on the team’s postseason prospects. If you paid for membership for the DC 12 Club last season when there were no playoff games to attend, you got hustled big time. But if you’re thinking about buying them for the upcoming season, it could actually be a good deal.

In the end, the question isn’t necessarily are Wizards season tickets are good deal, but instead how far do I think this team will go this season and am I willing to bet on that? For my part, being a diehard Wizkids fan and eternal optimist, I’m already trying to figure out how I can explain to my wife why we need to spend thousands of dollars on basketball tickets.

How Can We Build Up the Wizards Fan Base?

As a huge Wizards fan, I was quite discouraged to hear that one of the reasons Kevin Durant never considered DC as a viable free agency destination was that he felt the team lacked fan support.  Of course, there is a very obvious person to blame for the team’s failures in the free agency market.  Still, KD’s reported sentiments strike an insecurity that all true Wizards fans have: that our fanbase is pretty weak.  The Verizon Center is routinely half-empty, our franchise player is chronically underappreciated, and the fans themselves are often regrettably apathetic.  It seems you can’t go to a game and cheer for the Wizards without having to yell over a contingency of fans from the road team.  Nights like Kobe’s final game in DC highlight this unfortunate reality, and the home record speaks to the lack of any realized home-court advantage.

As tempting as it may be, nothing will get solved by wallowing in self-pity or hunting for a culprit to blame.  Instead, we should be productive and proactive in rebuilding the culture around being a Wizards fan.  We have to take it upon ourselves to foster the growth of this fanbase into one that free agents want to play for and opponents are scared to play against.  In that spirit, here are some strategies that Ted Leonsis and the core group of passionate Wizards fans can employ to build a stronger fanbase:

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Appropriate Season Ticket Prices: Okay, so this one is squarely on Ted.  Perhaps the most important variable in determining how many Wizards fans fill the arena is the price of season tickets.  And recently, season tickets prices have risen to levels that are clearly above market value.  After my first season as a ticket holder, I saw that the price increases following the 2015 season resulted in many of my fellow Section-117 plan holders opting not to renew.  After the most recent price hikes, even I couldn’t justify buying a season’s worth of tickets from Monumental when I could get individual game tickets on secondary markets for a fraction of cost.  Based on how many times Monumental extended my renewal deadline, I have a hunch that there will be a more dramatic drop in season ticket holders this upcoming season. Obviously, this attrition means that many of the most tenured and ardent fans are going to be replaced with more empty seats, or worse, bandwagoners in Cavs or Warriors jerseys.

Of course, Ted is running a business and he has to make money.  The marginal success the team has experienced over the past few years and the growing popularity of the league overall certainly justify some increase in ticket prices.   But prices above market value are hard to justify, especially when they come at the cost of lower attendance by the team’s most enthusiastic fans.  Ted, who has a vested interest in maintaining a base of loyal, repeat customers, should meet season ticket holders halfway.  Fair prices will allow more devoted Wizards fans to come more games, creating a better atmosphere in the stadium.  This will help develop a home-court advantage that results in a better team, which will drive fan interest, which will ultimately yield more demand for Wizards tickets.  In the end everyone benefits: Leonsis, the players, and the fans.  But it all starts with Ted setting the season ticket prices back at an appropriate level.

Special Cheering Group/Sections:  One of my biggest gripes against Wizards fans is that as a group we’re very subdued.  John Wall infamously commented that the fans seem to get more excited about free chicken sandwiches than they do about a win.  And if you are somebody who likes to cheer loudly and heckle the opposing team (me), quite often you’ll find yourself the recipient of reproaching glances from your neighbors.  We need to redefine the code of etiquette for attending a Wizards basketball game.  To do that, I propose starting a Designated Cheering Section.

This idea is not all unique; it comes from supporters of the University of Maryland Men’s Soccer team who started a fan club called The Crew.  The club started in 2003 with a small group of students who would sit behind the goal, loudly heckling the opposing goalie and raucously cheering on the home team.  The group quickly grew in size and sophistication, coordinating outfits and organizing chants.  The result has been a spike in interest in the team and a long standing reputation for one of the best home field advantages in college soccer.

We should bring this idea to the Verizon Center in the form of a few sections, preferably behind the basket, where fans are encouraged to cheer, yell, and heckle opposing players.  Obviously, fans are encouraged to do this all throughout the arena, but these sections would be reserved for the loudest, rowdiest, and most energetic fans.  Putting all these fans in the same section will allow them to feed off of each other’s energy, and also to coordinate chants and jeers.  These sections of boisterous fans will lead the rest of the arena in rooting for the team while teaching casual fans the proper way to cheer.

The Cheering Section would start small, but it will grow quickly as other fans see how much fun it is.  Passion is a contagious thing.  And once fans have yelled and screamed their support for the WizKids, they’ll probably find themselves more invested in the success of the team.  As the group of cheerleaders grows, signature chants, norms, and traditions are sure to develop and embed themselves in the culture of the team. Hopefully the end result is a more lively and intimidating home crowd and a few more Wizards wins at the Verizon Center.

Own the Wizard: I, like many of my fellow fans, think that “Wizards” is pretty silly moniker for a collection of world class athletes.  But I figure that if we’re not going to change the name back to the Bullets, then we might as well take ownership of the name that we do have.  That’s why my friend and I went to last season’s home opener on Halloween dressed as Wizards.  As in actual wizards; with hats and beards and a staff that got confiscated by security.  It was incredibly silly, but it was one of the best times I’ve had at a game.  I think the team should encourage more things like that.  We have a weird mascot, so let’s have fun with it.

For starts, every year the game that falls on or closest to Halloween has to be costume night, where everyone comes dressed up as their favorite Wizards.  This past year I was Gandalf, but let’s fill the stands with some Harry Potters and Hermione Grangers and Merlins, etc.  Bonus points for wearing a jersey over your costume.  Next, we should build out G-Wiz’s backstory.  He must be some sort of wizard, but what kind of powers does he have, what kind of quests has he been on, what the hell species is he?  Someone needs to answer these questions.  And one more suggestion: Since the NBA is making new alternate jerseys each year, can we get something wizard inspired?  Like maybe the team can warm up in hooded cloaks for a couple games.

Bandwagon Shaming: Among the worse symptoms of the Wizard’s underachievement this past decade is that we have a lot of bandwagon fans in DC.   It’s easy enough to understand where they’re coming from: they haven’t had a home team to root for in the NBA playoffs so they pick another team to support.  Still, it’s pretty lame when they just pick the best team to root for, and even more shameful when they’re rooting for those teams against the home squad.  We need to call these fugazi’s out.  We need to remind everyone that the only fans that get respect are loyal fans.  We need to shame the bandwagon fans clogging up the Verizon Center.

The Wizards were one of the first teams to get into bandwagon shaming, with the Bandwagon Cam on the jumbotron a few years ago.  I say let’s take this a step farther.  Let’s rig the nightly seat upgrade promotion so that a Warriors groupie wins, but then let’s upgrade them to the last row in the 400 section.   Let’s raise the stake on the Bandwagon Cam and show losers in Cavs jerseys on the jumbotron with the nerdy Snapchat filter.  Let’s send G-Wiz out into the stands to prank clowns wearing LA Clippers gear.  Or we can give a kid in a KD jersey a chance to play someone 1-on-1 for a prize, but then have him faceoff against one of our D-League players.  This may sound like a harsh way to treat these confused fans, but the truth is that we’ll be doing it for their own good.

Bonus Thoughts:

-A Wizards branded sports bar near the Verizon Center that fans have a place to come for road games or before and after home games to kick it with other fans.  Maybe they can set it up so that every now and then players will roll through after the game to interact with fans.

-Let people send SnapChats to the team and pick a few of the best ones to display on the jumbotron or the CSN broadcast.

Bring back G-Man.

-Fire Ernie Grunfeld!

 

Wizards Economics 101: Season Tickets Are an Unconsciously Bad Investment

Click here to read the new analysis for the 2018-2019 NBA season.

I’ve been a member of the DC 12 Club, more commonly known as Washington Wizards season ticket holders, for the past two seasons.  With the playoffs approaching, it’s now time to decide whether I’ll opt into a third year of buying tickets to 41 NBA basketball games at the Verizon Center.  Every week my inbox is filling up with deadline reminders from my guest services specialist and renewal sweepstakes promotions from the Monumental sales staff.  I’m easily the biggest Wizards fan I know personally, but after two years of loyal patronage, it has become glaringly obvious that purchasing Wizards season tickets is a horrible investment.

I first purchased season tickets two years ago in the middle of the Wizards playoff series win against the Chicago Bulls.  What most appealed to me about signing up for the commitment was that season ticket holders were guaranteed cheap prices for the duration of the playoffs.  I was predicting a second-round win against Indiana and a run to the Eastern Conference Finals, so this was too good of a deal to pass up.  Instead, the season ended with me witnessing three home playoff losses to the Pacers and drunkenly heckling Ted Leonsis at the conclusion of Game 6.  Still, I was excited for the upcoming season and I had a strategy to recoup most of the season ticket costs.  After a year where I attended 13 games and almost broke even on the resale market, I re-upped for another year of season tickets.  The price had jumped almost 33%, but the WizKids were surging again and I was sure another deep run into the playoffs would help me offset some of those higher costs and increase the resale value for the upcoming season.  Again our season ended with me drunk at a Game 6 at the Verizon Center, but this time it wouldn’t be filled with a season where I made a good return on my season tickets.

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I’m told I have about a week to decide on whether or not to renew my season tickets.  The first year it was an easy choice to sign up for tickets.  Last year, I mulled over the decision and went back and forth before ultimately opting to renew.  This year, it was an easy “No, thank you.”  Let’s walk through the decision making process:

Rising Prices: When I first purchased Wizards season ticket for the 2014-2015 NBA season, my two tickets in section 117 (lower level behind the basket) were priced at $35/game for a season total of $2,975.  The next year, for the 2015-2016 season, the prices jumped 33% to $46/ticket for a season total of $3,950.  At that time, I could reasonably justify the price hike with the team’s progression, consecutive years with a good playoff run, and the promise that resale prices on regular season games would continue to rise.  This year, prices for the same seats have risen another 8% to $4,250, even though the team has struggled all year to remain competitive.  Of course, Ted Leonsis is running a business, and having a monopoly on NBA tickets in Washington, DC, he can set the prices however he sees fit.  But, as I’ve seen over two years, this owner is getting greedy and clearly setting the season ticket price above market value.

Resale Prices:  Most season ticket holders buy tickets not expecting to attend all 41 home games.  My strategy when I first signed up was to sell tickets to most big ticket games in order to recoup a majority of the costs.  As a real Wizards fan, I attend games to watch the home team, and I can have fun at every game, regardless of the opponent.  For the 2014-2015 season, I sold tickets on Stubhub, and even after attending 13 games, I made back $2,850 of the $3,000 season ticket cost on the resale market. 13 games for an average $6 per ticket was a steal.  But for this past season, I’ve only made back $2,500 on the resale market while attending or giving away tickets to 11 games.  This happened even after the switch to NBA Ticket Exchange, which yields higher payouts for the seller as compared to StubHub.  Unlike the previous season, I went to none of the top-ten marquee games, and found myself unable to attend, sell, or give away tickets on five different occasions.  The $50/ticket for game attended I’ve paid this year was higher than the season ticket price, and an even worse deal considering how much I would have saved by buying the same tickets on the resale market.  The rising season ticket price only makes the deal worse.  Below is the summary of what I’ve done with  season tickets thus far this year.

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It is clear that no matter how many Wizards games you envision yourself attending, it is always better to buy your tickets on an individual game basis.  Even though you’ll save money on the big-ticket games, those savings will be offset by all the games that the market determines are worth only a fraction of the season ticket prices.  For the amount of money I spent on Wizards tickets this year, by buying on resale tickets I could have seen the Wizards take on the Cavs, Warriors, Clippers, Spurs, Bulls, Cavs again, Clippers, Thunder, Kobe Bryant, and the Raptors.  That’s an incredible lineup of games considering the games that I actually went to.

Playoff Tickets: The biggest perk of being a DC 12 Club member is that you are guaranteed tickets to all playoff games at a very reasonable price (My lower level tickets were about $50/game for each seat.)  Obviously, playoff tickets go for much more on the resale market, and this can yield a lot of value whether you resell your tickets or decide to attend the games.  The farther the team goes, the more value you accrue as a ticket holder.  Admittedly, this was the major selling point for me when I first purchased season tickets.  As an optimistic fan, I foresaw deep playoff runs and huge resale values for my tickets.  However, the Wizards are currently outside looking in on the playoff picture, and there is a very real chance that purchasing season tickets will return zero playoff tickets.  Even if we (hopefully) squeeze into the last spot, we’ll have a matchup with the Cavaliers that will surely end our season.  The Cavs yield the highest return on tickets of any Eastern Conference foe, and lower level tickets will likely fetch $300 for a pair on the resale market.  Still, this means that the best possible return on playoff tickets is $600, hardly enough to validate buying a season’s worth of tickets.

Free Swag: Another supposed perk of being a DC 12 Club member is that you get awesome and exclusive Wizards swag.  I’ll admit that I love both the Wizards warm-up jacket and gym bag that I received in my two years as a season ticket holder.  But besides those once-a-season gifts, being a ticket holder doesn’t get you much.  You can redeem Monumental Rewards points for gifts and you get 20% off at the Wizards Store at the Verizon Center.  Personally, I can only use so many Wizards bobbleheads or water bottles and I’ve found many options for buying cheaper team apparel and jerseys.  Monumental also offers different opportunities for fan experiences, such as writing your name on the court or allowing you to shoot free throws on post-game.  These opportunities are limited to specific games and are limited in their availability.  In my two seasons as a season ticket holder, I’ve never been able to take advantage of one of these perks because either I was not attending that game, the opportunity was booked, or I was simply was not interested.

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KD2DC?: Buying season tickets could be a good idea if you believe that Kevin Durant will sign with the Wizards this summer, igniting interest in the team and causing resale values to surge.  Obviously, this is a far-fetched proposal at the present time.  Kevin is extremely unlikely to leave a title contender to come to a team that is struggling to make the playoffs.  His last appearance at the Verizon Center surely didn’t help our cause.  Even if KD does shock the world and come home, more than likely you’ll still have a chance to get in on Wizards season tickets.  From last season to this one, many season ticket holders have opted not to renew, and more are likely to do so this year with the higher ticket prices and underachieving team.  This means that when the time comes for Durant to make his decision, there will still be a fair amount of season tickets available and you’ll have a chance to delay your purchase decision until that time.

Bottom Line: In case the above points were not clear enough, let me sum up the morale of this blog post in one sentence: under no circumstances should you purchase Washington Wizards ticket for the 2016-2017 NBA season.  No matter how many games you plan on attending or what your budget is for NBA games, buying individual game tickets on the resale market is always a better financial decision.  Personally, I’ll plan on paying $750-$1,000 for tickets over the course of the season, and try to attend a nice mix of marquee and cheap games.  Weekday games against unpopular teams can be had at great prices, and I’ll likely look to attend 8-10 of these.  That will leave money for a few games against the likes of the Cavs, Warriors, and Spurs, as well as room in the budget to attend some playoff games.

I hope the Wizards are indeed in line for a deep playoff push this season, as well as the addition of the kid from PG.  Even if they are, and especially if they’re not, the simple finances of a being a Wizards season ticket holder dictate that being such for the upcoming season is a very poor financial decision.