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.

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!

 

Fan Challenge: Who’s Got the Dopest DC Basketball Jersey Collection?

Yesterday I got a new John Wall 2016 All-Star jersey in the mail in time for the last home game of the season.  That brings my collection to nine jerseys, most of which I think are pretty dope.  This got me thinking, what Wizards fan out there has the best DC-exclusive jersey collection?  Check out my growing collection below, and let’s see who can top it.

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Jersey Descriptions: (Clockwise from top right corner)

John Wall Home White– This is the obviously the cornerstone of any fan collection: the home jersey of the franchise player.  I got this badboy as a Christmas present from my parents back when the team first changed its colors.

Kevin Durant USA– The #KD2DC dream isn’t dead yet! I’ve worn this jersey to two OKC games at the Verizon Center and pretty much every Fourth of July since 2012.

John Wall Rookie Road Throwback– I wasn’t a big fan of these colors, but you can’t go wrong with a jersey from John’s rookie season.  This one is a good choice for a Throwback Thursday.

Wes Unseld Bullets Road Mitchell & Ness– These are my favorite jerseys in the franchise history.  The blue on these is super clean, the Bullets logo is fresh, and it’s a throwback to the team’s one championship trophy.  I was really lucky to find this jersey for cheap o Ebay.

John Wall 2016 East All-Star– This team has one All Star, so it’s cool to give him props by rocking his All-Star jersey.  The jersey itself is not terribly good-looking, but this one is clearly better than John’s 2014 and 2015 All-Star jerseys, which were hideous and bland, respectively.

JR Wizards Rec League(reversible)- I’m not exactly sure where I got this.  I actually think my mom bought this from a thrift store or else it was handed down to me from a cousin.  In either case, I’ve been balling in this for years and like to pretend that I played for the JR Wizards Rec League.

Michael Jordan Wizards Road– Like every other male my age, I was obsessed with MJ as a kid.  And when he came to the Wizards is when I really became a fan of the team.  I got the jersey along with tickets to my first NBA game for my birthday when I was in sixth grade, and I probably wore this once a week for the full year following that.  Today, I have mixed feelings about Jordan’s legacy as a Wizard, but it’s almost required to have for any Wizards jersey collection.

Nene Brazil National Team– To be honest, this is just a generic Brazil jersey and it’s not even Nene’s number when he plays for the National team.  But nobody knows that, and I’m going to get his name screen-pressed onto the back anyway.  This is going to be a great wear if we ever get a game on St. Patty’s Day and when I visit my classmate in Brazil.

Chris Webber Bullets Road– Chris Webber doesn’t have much of a legacy as a Wizards player, but he actually was one of my favorite players when he played for the Kings.  This jersey is pretty good looking too with the bright red.  I had a choice of picking up Webber’s jersey with #2 or #4.  I went with #2 as a homage to the WallStar.

Next Up:

My next jersey purchases (if my fiancé doesn’t read this and stop me), is a Marcin Gortat Road jersey, a Bradley Beal alternate blue jersey, and a Gilbert Arenas Zephyrs Throwback.  After that, I’ll feel like I have a pretty complete collection.

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What have they done with G-Man? #freeGMan

At the Verizon Center for a recent Wizards game, I found it odd that G-Wiz was leading the crowd in the “De-fense” chant in the fourth quarter.  Not only because G-Wiz was horribly offbeat as he banged the drum, but also because that job is usually reserved for G-Man, the more serious Wizards mascot.  When I thought about it, I couldn’t remember the last time I saw G-Man, though I’ve been to at least 12 games this season.  Something is definitely up.

Missing

Looking through G-Wiz’s social media accounts, which he officially shares with G-Man, G-Man is surprisingly absent.  He last tweeted from the account before the season and he’s not in any pictures since then.  I remember seeing him at the arena on opening night, but I haven’t seen him at any games since then.  It’s also peculiar that G-Wiz has taken over his chant-leading duties, and that the Secret Service Dunkers are now performing without their leader.

G-Man is the perfect complement to the goofy G-Wiz.  While G-Wiz dresses up silly and picks fights with Robin Lopez, G-Man is all about business.  His toned physique reveals his discipline, and he must be one of only a few mascots that can do flip dunks.  Just two years ago, G-Man reached peak awareness, when he helped John Wall take home the Dunk Contest trophy.  And now he’s nowhere to found.

What’s behind this? Is G-Man being phased out of the organization?   Is he beefing with G-Wiz?  Is he in Randy Wittman’s doghouse?  Is in Oklahoma actively recruiting Kevin Durant? Is Robin Lopez holding him hostage? Is Ted Leonsis refusing to pay his salary? We need to start asking these questions before it’s too late and we never see G-Man again.  #freeGMan