Yankees ticket revenue dropped 21% last season from year before

Empty seats are seen in the seventh inning

Empty seats are seen in the seventh inning of Game 2 of the American League Championship Series between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium. (Oct. 14, 2012) Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

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The Yankees' ticket and luxury box revenue declined nearly 21 percent last season from the year before, which the team attributes to missing the playoffs for the first time in five years and injuries to star players.

The Yankees reported $278.8 million in ticket and luxury box revenue for the 2013 season, according to the team's latest financial filing, down from $352.9 million the year before. The $278.8 million included postseason refunds or credits of $21.2 million. The 2013 figure represents the team's lowest single-season ticket revenue since it moved into the new Yankee Stadium in 2009, when ticket revenue totaled $397 million. Overall, from 2009 to 2013, the team's ticket and luxury box revenue declined 29.8 percent.

"This was not the typical Yankee team, and the injuries really had a change in the public's awareness and the buying of tickets during the year," said Yankees chief operating officer Lonn Trost. "We were obviously not surprised the ticket purchases were down."

The numbers come from an end-of-year financial report the Yankees filed in February with the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, a regulatory body that oversees municipal bond sales.

The Yankees, who open the season on Tuesday night in Houston, lease their stadium from New York City's Industrial Development Agency, which issued the tax-exempt bonds used to build it. As part of bond agreements, the team files financial reports to show they have enough revenue to make an annual bond payment of about $77 million.

The reports provide a partial window into the team's finances. The Yankees were valued by Forbes last week at $2.5 billion, first among baseball's 30 teams.

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Both the Mets and the Yankees designate certain revenue streams to backstop their bond payments. While the Mets designate ballpark-related revenue -- which includes premium-seat sales, advertising, concessions, parking and luxury suites -- to support their bond payments, the Yankees pledge ticket and luxury box revenue for the same purpose.

Jodi Hecht, a Standard & Poor's analyst who studies Yankees ticket sales, wrote in her latest analysis that the Yankees were helped during the stadium's initial years by attendance that had "trended at anticipated levels or higher."

The Yankees finished in third place last season with a record of 85-77, missing the playoffs for only the second time since 1993. The team led the American League in total attendance with 3,279,589, according to baseball-reference.com, but that figure represented an 8 percent drop from a season earlier.

Hecht said in an interview the attendance decline was most likely due to the team's performance on the field, which was hurt by injuries to stars such as Derek Jeter, Alex Rodriguez, Mark Teixeira and Curtis Granderson.

"I think the drop, if you just take it and look at it, you'll say, 'Eight percent? Oh my goodness, that seems pretty large,' " Hecht said.

Despite that drop, she said, the team had annual ticket revenue last year 2 1/2 times more than their stadium-related payment obligations.

Trost said injuries to the team's best players was the reason the new stadium was not as full as it had been in previous seasons. He said he had an idea during last year's spring training that ticket sales might be down, considering the team was without Teixeira, Jeter and Rodriguez.

"We get the lineups early," Trost said. "There were times ourselves we didn't recognize the names of the players. It definitely had an effect on the fans acquiring tickets."

Vince Gennaro, a Westchester County-based consultant to major league teams regarding brand management and statistical analysis, said the Yankees' attendance drop was not surprising because their brand is built around fielding a star-studded, championship-contending team, and that wasn't the case for much of 2013.

"They have great fans, but their fans are conditioned to have an expectation of winning and star power," he said. "And if that expectation is not met, then it's going to change the relationship the team has and the brand has with the fans."

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The Yankees responded to missing the playoffs with a flurry of activity this past offseason, committing nearly $500 million in long-term contracts with top free agents Masahiro Tanaka, Jacoby Ellsbury, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran.

"I think this year was a real attempt at a course correction," Gennaro said. "This isn't the best Yankees team coming out of spring training in the last 10 or 15 years, but it's clearly a huge step in the right direction from last year."

Trost agreed.

"This year to the contrary, there's a buzz and an excitement and this was before Derek announced this is his final year," he said.

Yankees' ticket decline

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