Not surprisingly, some Atlanta United season-ticket holders aren’t thrilled with price increases to renew for the 2019 MLS season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. However, few responding on social media to the increase said they won’t renew.
Founders’ Club members and/or those who purchased season tickets in 2018 recently began to receive notifications of increases that range from $2 to $15 per game for the 18-game package. Total prices appear to range from $540 to more than $9,000, according to some of the team’s season-ticket holders. The team declined to provide totals for different packages and unlike in previous years, it doesn’t include a map with prices on its website.
The team said the price increases are because of a variety of factors, including seat location, founding member/non-founding member status and demand. Atlanta United leads MLS in attendance (50,426) this season and holds several league single-game attendance records.
Some season-ticket holders are experiencing price increases as high as 28.5 percent compared with prices in the inaugural 2017 season. Some of those season-ticket holders said they have been told by sales reps that the increases are partially a result of a sharp increase in resale values on secondary markets this season, that this is the resulting market correction, and that significant increases aren’t expected next season.
The increases are considerably steeper than the team enacted between the 2017 and ’18 seasons.
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In 2017, season-ticket prices for an 18-game package in the Supporters Section were $360, or $20 per game. In 2018, season-ticket prices for an 18-game package were $504, or $28 per game, in the Supporters Section. However, nine regular-season home games were played at Georgia Tech’s Bobby Dodd Stadium in 2017, with eight at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. All of the league games this season and next will be at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
The most expensive ticket in 2017 was $4,050, or $225 per game. The most expensive ticket in 2018 is $8,820, or $490 per game.
Some season-ticket holders said they didn’t notice the price increase when they received their invoice for the coming season. Others wrote they plan on purchasing more tickets.
But a perceived lack of communication aggravated some season-ticket holders.
Though a team spokeswoman wrote in an email that the club reached out to all season-ticket members to communicate pricing for the 2019 season, a few said the increases were an unpleasant surprise.
“I guess you could say I understand where the front office is coming from, but I do feel like they should've emailed STHs an email explaining it, rather than just getting the email saying, ‘here's your new rates" and that's it,’” wrote Chi Sato, whose two tickets in Section 232 will increase in price from $1,116 this season to $1,280 for the pair. “I believe transparency and communication can solve a lot of confusion and instant disgust.”
Jay Riddle, who has two tickets in the Delta SkyClub and one in the Supporters’ Section, said he was also surprised by the increase. After a conversation with this sales rep, he cancelled the one in the Supporters’ Section, which saw an increase from $258 in 2017 to $432 in 2019, and kept the two in the Delta SkyClub, which increased from $1,910 for the pair in 2017 to $2,700 in 2019.
“Now that I'm prepared for this possibility (of increase), I can set aside 25 percent of the value of my tickets each year, and they'll have to pull my remaining two season tickets out of my cold, dead hands,” Riddle wrote.
Most said they will continue to pay because they appreciate the value and the product.
“First because of the many fantastic memories I have made with my family during AUFC games,” wrote Jay Jaeger, whose two tickets in Section 120 will increase in price from $776 this season to $864 for the pair. “My 3-year-old runs around playing ‘Miggy, Josef, and Guzan.’ Second, the product is fantastic. Winning is great and our style is attractive. I have enjoyed every minute of supporting this team, even after losses. As long as the front office keeps going towards a direction that I like and I can reasonably afford it, I will continue to support them.”
Others aren’t sure what they may do if prices continue to increase.
Stacie McAlpine, who went in with a group of friends to buy two tickets in Section 130, has experienced a price of $1,820 for the pair in 2017 to $1,892 in 2018 to $2,432 for 2019. She said they will be forced to sell tickets they can’t use in 2019 and won’t pay for them in 2020 if there’s a similar increase.
Stephen Joyce, whose four tickets in Section 205 increased from $1,725 in 2018 to $2,160, or $25 a game to $32 a game, said the 25 percent increase was higher than he anticipated. A similar increase in 2020 may result in he not purchasing as many tickets.
“All in all, still seems a solid entertainment value relative to other ‘major’ sports,” he wrote. “I do however have latent concern that the trend continues because this team is foundational fabric for my ATLANTA identity and I hate to think it’s at risk.”
The team said it has more than 37,000 season-ticket holders with a waiting list in the thousands. It points to the fact that prices paid by season-ticket holders are significantly less than those who buy for single games. The club also said that those who can’t afford tickets for the 2019 season in their current section will have an opportunity to select seats in a more affordable section, as long as there is availability.
“Our goal has always been to keep pricing at a point where we are accommodating our current fans/season ticket holders and allowing for new fans to experience Atlanta United matches,” a team spokeswoman wrote. “As a result, we chose to limit season ticket sales and intend to do the same in 2019.”
However, some pointed to the city’s history as a reason why those numbers may not be as powerful as they seem.
“They should be a little wary of fleecing the pockets of their original fans given how new the team is, however,” wrote Scott Evans, whose ticket in Section 125 increased from $648 in 2018 to $720 in 2019. “This city can be fickle with its sports and nobody remains the toast of the town forever. Seems like it’s been nothing but goodwill and good news and then they sneakily increase prices on anyone with little warning. Beware the slippery slope.”
Lastly, some feel like the team isn’t honoring its pledge.
“For an organization that markets how important the fans are has made a purely business decision with no regard to the fans that joined before the craze,” wrote Scott, who asked that his last name not be used. “The very fans that helped build the organization now are being pushed out to increase profits.
“The main issue I have is had I known pricing was headed this direction I could have chosen other seats early on. Now my choices are pay 30% more, drop my season tickets, or take what you can find in other sections which isn't much or comparable to my current seats. I haven't decided what to do yet.”