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Mets' ballpark revenues drop for the fourth straight year

A view of Citi Field during the Mets-Phillies

A view of Citi Field during the Mets-Phillies game on May 28, 2012. Credit: AP

The Mets' ballpark-related revenue reported to regulators dropped for the fourth straight year in 2013, down nearly 34 percent since Citi Field opened in 2009.

According to the ballpark's latest financial statement, the team reported that ballpark-related revenue -- which includes premium-ticket sales, advertising, concessions, parking and luxury suites -- for 2013 was $119.2 million, down from the $180.4 million reported for 2009.

The Mets, who open their season at Citi Field on Monday, have suffered through five straight years with a losing record, and attendance has declined in every season since the ballpark opened. Attendance in 2013 was 2,135,657, according to the team. The club drew 3,154,262 fans to the inaugural season at Citi Field.

That drop in attendance can be seen in the Mets' revenue from premium seats, which represent nearly a quarter of all seats in the stadium. That revenue fell almost 5 percent in 2013 from 2012. The team reported taking in $41.9 million from the sale of 10,635 premium seats last season, a decrease from $44 million in 2012 and $99.3 million in 2009.

A Mets subsidiary, Queens Ballpark Co., which operates Citi Field, must make the financial report available to bondholders to illustrate the team's ability to pay back its annual bond payment of $42.8 million related to the building of the ballpark. The team designates its ballpark revenue from five areas for that purpose.

These filings provide a partial window into the team's finances. The Mets were valued at $800 million by Forbes last week, ninth out of baseball's 30 teams.

The Mets declined to comment on the financial report. However, speaking about attendance last week, Lou DePaoli, the Mets' executive vice president and chief revenue officer, said the numbers will improve.

"We're expecting attendance to go up slightly versus last year," he said. "We are on pace to get to those numbers."

The team's financial report was publicly filed in February 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 used to pay for the stadium's construction.

The filing shows that revenue from concessions decreased to $10.7 million last year from $11.4 million in 2012. Parking revenue fell to $6.9 million last season from $7.5 million in 2012. The Mets did see a slight uptick in luxury box revenue, to $8.9 million, from $8.7 million in 2012.

Not included in the financial report are other revenue streams for the Mets, such as the remaining seats at Citi Field and its television rights deal with SportsNet NY. Also not included are the team's major expenses such as the player payroll, which is expected to be around $89 million this season. Team payroll was approximately $140 million in 2011.

Experts say the Mets' drops in premium-ticket sales and some other ballpark-related revenue may soon be a thing of the past. For example, the 2013 figure for ballpark related revenue, at $119.2 million, was down slightly from $121.5 million the year before.

Late last year, the ratings agency Standard & Poor's revised its short-term outlook on the ballpark's financial health from negative to stable "based on our belief that future ballpark cash flow, which still may face some slight declines, is moving toward stabilization, affected by the improving economy and execution of management's plan to stabilize the baseball team."

Jodi Hecht, a Standard & Poor's analyst who follows Citi Field's finances, wrote in her latest analysis that the Mets' attendance is expected to increase by 2 percent this season and should stabilize long-term at around 2.2 million.

"I think the major drops have stopped," Hecht said.

Hecht said the Mets' five consecutive losing seasons, combined with the region's many sports and entertainment options, is why the team has experienced a drop in stadium revenue.

Many Mets fans have also become fixated on the reduction in player payroll and are taking a wait-and-see attitude toward the team's youth movement, said Wayne McDonnell, a professor of the business of baseball at New York University.

"I think the Mets are run right now as if they are a midmarket franchise rather than a New York franchise, and that probably bothers the fans," McDonnell said.

McDonnell said he is optimistic that a winning season will draw more people.

"If they start winning again, I really think they are primed to where they could take over New York again, because there's just this overabundance of Mets fans waiting around that are just dying for them to be good again," he said.

-- With Steven Marcus

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misspelled the name of Lou DePaoli, the Mets' executive vice president and chief revenue officer.


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