Shocking Grey Cup ticket prices show Argos clueless about situation
STEVE SIMMONS, TORONTO SUN
[b]The timing could not have been worse — or perhaps more tone deaf.
In one 24-hour period, the Toronto Argonauts — forever fighting to find local relevance, coming off a sloppy defeat with their wonderful new home more empty than full on Wednesday night — have punched us in the stomach once again.
The Grey Cup ticket prices are out and the Argos are either incredibly ambitious or incredibly blind and foolish to their situation in this city.
The prices, frankly, are shocking at first glance, stunning at second glance.
My $75 seat in Section 124 at BMO Field on a beautiful summer night is $599 on Grey Cup Sunday, weather undetermined, in November.
One championship game for the price of almost eight regular-season games.
The top ticket price for Grey Cup 2016 in Toronto is $899.
The next price of a seat is $799.
After that, it scales back from — gulp — $699 to $599 to $499 to $399.
And if you want to go on the cheap — imagine that — the lowest Grey Cup ticket price in years, they say, is $169 a ducat.
In other words, I’m out.
If I had any intention of buying Grey Cup tickets for my family before Thursday, it’s not even a consideration now. It’s way too rich for my blood or bank account.
“Fifty percent of the tickets are under $300, a quarter of them are under $200,? said Sara Moore, the Argos’ senior vice-president and COO of the 2016 Grey Cup. “Our average ticket price is just over $300. We think, for Toronto, pricing that’s just about right.
“It’s a championship game,? she added. “I’m not worried about (sales) at all.?
Last year, in football-crazy Winnipeg, they worried about sales. The average ticket price was $285 for a Grey Cup seat. In Winnipeg, where they’ve paid for years for terrible football, selling the Grey Cup wasn’t easy at all.
Two years before, in football-nutty Regina, the average Grey Cup ticket was also $285.
Regina pays for anything that is football. Toronto is being asked to pay just a little bit more now.
The average price now: Just more than $300 a seat.
And here’s what I can’t get out of my head, because I really want to believe in the new Argos, the new ownership, the new business people.
I want to give them every chance to succeed. I sat in my new season-ticket seats on Wednesday night, enjoying the atmosphere, taking part in the pre-game tailgate, trying to experience whether football can be fun again in Toronto and across the field, while on the other side of BMO, the stands were basically empty. Attendance was announced at 12,373.
More seats were empty than filled at the beautiful new stadium.
At reasonable prices. In the middle of summer. With kids out of school.
Yes, there can be a complete disconnect between Argos sales and championship-game sales, but one has to be built alongside the other. The better time to do a Grey Cup here was a year or two down the road, once something has been established or re-established here.
But the CFL and Argos were opportunistic, or perhaps too quick on the draw here. In 2012, the Argos had 8,000 season-ticket holders and 54,000 at Grey Cup. By the time last season ended, they had just 3,600 season seats sold. Now they’re up to 7,000, according to team president Michael Copeland.
If other season-ticket holders are scared off by Grey Cup prices, the challenge grows even more so for the Argos. The prices seem rather monstrous in a year of World Cup and world junior hockey and — who knows — maybe a World Series in the market.
In the end, there’s only so much money to go around.[/b]