The Mets’ ballpark-related revenue reported to bondholders rose nearly 30 percent last year thanks to the team’s run to the World Series. The increase marked the end of five consecutive years of declines since Citi Field opened in 2009.
According to the latest financial statement, the team reported that ballpark-related revenue — premium ticket sales, concessions, parking, advertising and luxury suites — was $151.7 million in 2015. The filings provide a partial view into the team’s overall financial picture because they do not include revenue from the sale of 30,000 nonpremium seats and national and local TV and radio contracts.
It is the highest total since Citi Field’s first season in 2009 when ballpark-related revenue was $180.4 million. The number decreased for five consecutive seasons, reaching a low of $117 million in 2014.
The Mets reached the World Series last year for the first time since 2000, losing to the Kansas City Royals in five games. The team played seven home playoff games, all of which were sold out. The postseason games gave the Mets a boost of $9,973,625 in ballpark-related revenue, according to the financial statement. The Mets enjoyed their first winning season at Citi Field, and regular-season attendance rose nearly 20 percent to 31,725 per game last year.
A Mets subsidiary, Queens Ballpark Co., which operates Citi Field, makes the financial report available to bondholders every May to show the team’s ability to pay back its annual bond payment of $43.2 million related to the building of the ballpark. When the bonds were sold, the team designated specific ballpark-related revenue to support their payment.
The team’s financial report was publicly filed April 29 with the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, a regulatory firm that oversees the sale of municipal bonds. Queens Ballpark Co. leases Citi Field from New York City’s Industrial Development Agency, which issued the tax-exempt bonds to pay for the stadium’s construction.
The Mets declined to comment.
Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred last month described the Mets as “financially stable” after years of questions about the impact of the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme on the Wilpon family, which owns the Mets.
“They’re actually performing very well now from a financial perspective,” Manfred said. “I understand why people ask the question, but I think we’re past that.”
The Wilpon family and the trustee handling the recovery of the Madoff funds announced on May 31 a modification to their 2012 court-approved settlement that now allows the Wilpons to defer a significant portion of the $61 million currently owed.
Under the new terms, the Wilpons were to make a $16 million payment June 1 instead of $23 million. The remainder, currently about $45 million, will be divided in four annual installments from 2017 to 2020 at a cost of 3.5 percent interest. Under the old terms, the remaining balance would have been owed next June.
The Mets increased the team’s Opening Day 2016 payroll to $137.9 million, nearly $38 million more than 2015, according to The Associated Press.
Experts said the Mets’ 30 percent increase in ballpark-related revenue from 2014 to last year shows the direct connection in professional sports between performance on the field and performance at the gate.
“In the economics of sports, having a good team matters more than anything,” said Joel Maxcy, head of the sport management department at Drexel University in Philadelphia. “It’s important to run different types of promotions to get people in, but the pressure is not as great to do those types of things when the team is good.”
The revenue increases were indicative across Citi Field’s spreadsheet.
- Revenue from premium seats, which represent the most expensive 10,635 seats at the ballpark, rose to $54.4 million from $40.4 million in 2014. Ticket sales for the remaining 30,000 seats at Citi Field are not included in this financial report.
- Concession sales came in at $18.3 million, up from $10.8 million in 2014 and significantly more than its previous high of $15.2 million in 2009.
- Parking was $10 million, up from $8.3 million in 2014.
Rod Fort, a sports economics professor at the University of Michigan, said the Mets’ ballpark-related revenue figures in 2015 are impressive because they did not enter the season as favorites to make the postseason.
“Meeting and exceeding expectations are critical in professional sports,” Fort said. “If the Mets fans expect to have a playoff contender every year and you don’t give it to them five to eight years in a row, then you’re going to suffer horribly on the revenue side. And then here it works the other way, too.”
Robert Leib, a financial consultant who has worked with Major League Baseball teams, said the Mets are enjoying “an overflow effect” from their run to the World Series.
“When you’re in the postseason, you have a much easier job getting season ticket buyers, renewals and companies to renew their club suites,” Leib said. “It’s got a tremendous ripple effect and a sound organization has people that are poised to take advantage.”
So far this season the Mets have had bigger crowds than a year ago. The Mets were averaging 34,979 per game. That’s an increase of 5,638 tickets sold per game compared to the Mets’ first 27 home games in 2015, according to baseball-reference.com, representing the third biggest jump in the majors this season.
“It may sound straightforward, but these numbers show the importance of having a good product,” Maxcy said. “A winning team absolutely changes the dynamic tremendously.”