The Boston Red Sox typically begin selling tickets to select home games in December. But 2021 ticket sales will be put on hold in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Sales will be pushed back to January or February as it remains unclear if the Red Sox and other Major League Baseball teams will be able to host fans, even in a limited capacity, during 2021.
Full capacity attendance likely hinges on when a vaccine is available to the general public. Pfizer and BioNTech announced Nov. 18 that their coronavirus vaccine showed it is 95% effective at preventing the spread of the viral respiratory infection.
The Red Sox also have not yet decided whether single-game ticket prices will increase. The organization increased ticket prices by an average of 1.7% in 2020. Ticket prices increased an average of 2.5% both in 2018 and 2019 and 2.9% in 2017. Boston did not increase prices in 2015.
“We don’t know yet,” Red Sox executive vice president of ticketing Ron Bumgarner said during a phone interview with MassLive.com on Tuesday. “There’s so much uncertainty ahead that we’re still kind of evaluating, trying to formalize a variety of options. There’s just so many variables. In simplest terms, we don’t know if we’re going to be at 2,000 fans or 10,000 fans or at full capacity.
“What we’ve decided to do this year is push everything back,” Bumgarner added. “We usually go on sale in December. We have our holiday sale (such as at Christmas at Fenway). This year, we’ve just put a hold on it. We’ve said, let’s wait. Let’s see what the future’s going to hold. And we’ll figure out what the landscape looks like and make those decisions in that January-February timeframe because we don’t know.”
The Red Sox began calling season-ticket holders this week and will send them invoices next week. The team has added three new benefits for season-ticket holders in 2021.
“We increased our season-ticket holder discount, which is probably the most impactful,” Bumgarner said. “We took it from an average of 10% up to an average of 15% this year.”
The amount of the discount depends on seat location, but Bumgarner added, “Every season-ticket holder will have a lower per seat cost this coming year.”
A flexible-payment plan is the second benefit the Red Sox instituted.
“In years past, payments were due in December for season tickets,” Bumgarner said. “This year we changed that program to add a four-month payment plan. So a season-ticket holder can renew their season tickets, pay 25% in December, 25% in January, 25% in February, 25% in March. So just spreading out that payment, providing more flexibility and giving our fans the opportunity to renew, especially considering the situation where there is so much uncertainty that they can make their commitment at just 25% to start.”
The third benefit is an exchange program for season-ticket holders.
“In simplest terms, just if a season-ticket holder can’t make it to a game, they’ll be given the opportunity to exchange that ticket for another game,” Bumgarner said.
Bumgarner said the season-ticket discount is more in line with what other teams across Major League Baseball are doing. He said a lot of teams across all sports have payment plans.
“A lot of teams in baseball have the exchange program,” he said. “In years past, back in the old days, it was difficult for us to have an exchange program because we had such high demand and sellouts. During those times, you wouldn’t have a game to exchange to. And over the last five or six years, there is more ability to exchange tickets for other games. So we’re rolling out that program as well.”
The Red Sox had a plan in place to allow approximately 6,500 fans into games at Fenway Park during September, but government officials did not allow it. MLB also made a decision to prohibit teams from allowing fans during the regular season.
“We just don’t know and we’re watching other markets in football in particular where some markets have been allowed to have up to 20,000 fans and some have been as low as 2,000,” Bumgarner said. “We’re kind of taking a wait-and-see approach. We’re doing a bunch of different scenarios behind the scenes of what if it’s 25% capacity? What if it’s six-foot social distancing? What does that turn out to be? And what if it’s 50% or what if it’s full capacity? So we’re planning for the best-case scenario but also planning for any of these other scenarios. … We’re certainly optimistic with the news of the vaccine and some of the distribution conversations that have been going on. But just like you, we don’t know. We’re in a wait-and-see mode.”
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