Baltimore Orioles: Is StubHub ruining ticket sales?


Do the Baltimore Orioles and other teams suffer at the box office due to sites such as StubHub?

Like most sports franchises, the Baltimore Orioles have lots of their tickets change hands on sites such as StubHub. First off let me be clear; I’m in no way calling StubHub out specifically or directly. There are lots of online ticket brokering sites out there, including ebay and even Craigslist. StubHub just happens to be the most celebrated of them.

Fans buy and sell tickets in this manner all the time. And at a certain point both teams and leagues decided that if you can’t beat them, join them. So they jumped into bed with some of these sites, and now everyone gets a cut of the pie.

I’m not going to lie; I’ve done my share of transactions on StubHub. It’s very convenient both for the buyer as well as the seller. And depending on the game and the teams involved, there are times where seats on some of these sites are cheaper on gameday than it would be to walk up to the box office and buy a ticket in person. Not only that, but now buyers can print their tickets directly at home or at work, and head straight over to the stadium.

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  • So how exactly is this a bad thing? The answer is that in general, it isn’t. But all novelties have ripple effects that are unintended. I was talking to a friend last week about the NFL’s Rams moving back to Los Angeles. First off I feel badly for the fans of St. Louis; growing up with a father who desperately missed his beloved Colts, I know how the narrative goes from that side.

    However my point in the conversation was that the Los Angeles Rams were set up for good success at the box office early on. They’ll be playing at the LA Coliseum for the first three years while their new home is being built. As old and rickety as the Coliseum is, in my view they’re gauranteed for 2-3 years worth of sellouts just because of the novelty. Then they’ll move into the new stadium, and the same will be true in terms of sellouts – regardless of how good or bad the team is.

    However my friend made a good point – I’m thinking of this in terms of how

    Courtesy of Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports
    Courtesy of Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports /

    things worked when Oriole Park at Camden Yards was built. The O’s had years’ worth of sellouts when they moved to the Inner Harbor. The first few years you had people coming from far and wide just to see the ballpark – and it was a tough ticket. Then the team contended in 1996-97, followed by the tail end of the Ripken years. That kept that ballpark packed almost every night.

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    As I said, it was a tough ticket to get back at that time – especially the early days. The same was true just down the road at RFK Stadium for the NFL’s Washington Redskins. I remember in school that whenever someone would have ticket’s to that Sunday’s game, they were kind of a celebrity all week. That’s how tough it was to get tickets; you basically had to know someone who had season tickets and couldn’t go to the game.

    But the difference now is that you can buy tickets to literally ANYTHING on sites such as StubHub. The Redskins, along with the Ravens, obviously sell out every game; but anyone can jump online and still buy tickets. That wasn’t the case 20 years ago. You could go through a broker, but that was challenging and expensive.

    So assuming that the Rams sell out their season tickets, it might well be a tough ticket to find. However anyone will still be able to jump on StubHub and buy tickets to a game if they want. You want to go to the first game? No problem, you can get tickets on gameday! The 49ers are coming to town? Again, no problem – just jump online and get as many tickets as you want. Previously, if you didn’t have season tickets you pretty much had to wait until someone who did offered you a ticket to a game. That’s just not true anymore.

    Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and most of the ballparks built in the early-mid 1990’s got huge attendance spikes as people ran through the turnstiles just to see the new park. None more so than Camden Yards, but the opening of the new parks in Cleveland and Texas were both huge as well. But look at some of the parks that have opened only recently; Miami never came close to the buzz they expected, and neither did various other places. Heck even Washington probably expected bigger crowds at the beginning.

    Part of that is due to the team on the field for sure. With the high cost of tickets, concessions, etc, people now have and are utilizing other options in terms of spending their entertainment dollars. However the fact is that tickets are so much more readily available now than they were generations ago. Could you imagine jumping online to buy tickets on gameday to the opening game at Camden Yards? Probably not. But that was possible on day one of the new Yankee Stadium.

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    Again, this is not to say that StubHub and other sites are hurting sports. They’re all great services, just with unintended consequences. It boils down to the simple laws of supply and demand; with more supply readily out there, demand will go down.