Fan interest rises for World Series tickets

Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas, where the best-of-seven World Series between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers will begin October 20. (Photo by Kyodo News via Getty Images)

Despite limits on attendance amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, Major League Baseball is seeing fast-growing interest among ticket buyers for the World Series, beginning October 20 at Globe Life Field in Arlington, Texas.

With a maximum attendance of 11,500 per game for the seven-game series between the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers, representing about 29 per cent of ballpark capacity, the World Series has seen average secondary market listing prices rise by nearly half in recent days.

New York-based ticket search engine TicketIQ says the average ticket resale market listing price is $1,329, up 46 per cent since October 16, a date prior to the Rays and Dodgers winning their respective league pennants and setting the World Series matchup. 

The $1,329 average listing price is also down by 31 per cent from last year’s World Series between the Washington Nationals and Houston Astros, which obviously was held prior to the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic and with full ballparks, and saw pricing in particular driven upward by the Nationals making their first World Series appearance.

Low-end, get-in pricing for Game 1 on ticket marketplaces such as StubHub, MLB’s official ticket resale partner, and SeatGeek has tracked between $350 and $400 per ticket. Game 4, set for October 24, is the most popular World Series game thus far with buyers, with average listing prices surpassing $1,600.

All primary market ticket inventory through MLB and its Tickets.com quickly sold out. 

Further demand dynamics will rest significantly on the willingness of Dodgers and Rays fans to travel to Texas for the games. Also impactful will be how many season ticket holders of the Texas Rangers, who had access to seats before the general public, will opt to flip those tickets to other buyers.

This year’s World Series, like the National League Champion Series before it, will have a series of enhanced health and safety protocols including including socially distanced seating pods, contactless ticket scanning, and modified food and beverage service.

World Series seats are being sold in sets of four, within none within to be located within a 20-foot buffer established for players, umpires, and other field staff. But unlike prior years where most MLB playoff tickets were sold in event strips, buyers on both primary and secondary markets have been able to buy seats for individual games.

“We’re approaching this like it’s a new crowd every day, and we need to educate them [on health and safety protocols] every day,” said Rob Matwick, Rangers executive vice president of business operations.

This year’s World Series, meanwhile, represents a stark contrast in the economic might of the competing clubs. The Dodgers, MLB’s perennial attendance leaders in normal, non-pandemic years, had the league’s second-largest player payroll in 2020 with a total of nearly $108m, trailing only the New York Yankees, with the figure like every other team adjusted due to the modified 60-game regular season played this year. The Dodgers also play in one of the sport’s crown jewel venues, Dodger Stadium, that has been extensively renovated.

The Rays, conversely, had MLB’s third-lowest player payroll figure at $29.3m, beating only Baltimore and Pittsburgh. The club has for nearly its entire existence unsuccessfully sought to replace the outmoded and poorly located Tropicana Field, and are now pursuing a hotly debated and unconventional plan to split their seasons between Tampa and Montreal, Canada.

Andrew Friedman, Dodgers president of business operations since 2014, has seen both sides of that dynamic, having previously led the Rays for eight years in a run that included four playoff berths and an American League pennant in 2008. He stressed that he and the Dodgers are not taking the Rays lightly.

“Payrolls don’t decide the standings, and I think we see evidence of that every year,” Friedman said. “Having a really deep and talented roster regardless of what your payroll is the key to winning games, and that’s what they have. And it’s been through a lot of very shrewd moves, some through the Draft, some through trades, and all kinds of different creative ways of player procurement.”