The economic forces of supply and demand will have a direct impact on New York Mets ticket prices in 2012.
Team officials have abandoned their previous pricing strategy of four color-coded ticket levels based on the attractiveness of the opponent and the date of the game in favor of what is known as "dynamic pricing."
In essence, the same seat at Citi Field could have a different price for each of the 81 home games. And for any individual game, that seat's price now can fluctuate daily, based on how much demand there is for the upcoming game.
Should the Philadelphia Phillies, seemingly an attractive opponent, limp into Citi Field late next season in last place with projected demand to see the game not materializing, the ticket price will be adjusted downward.
Under the old system, for instance, the Sept. 24, 2011 game against the Phillies was labeled "premium" or silver level. The price was set at the beginning of the year when tickets went on sale and was not adjustable.
"We have a sense going in that an early or a late midweek game isn't as desirable as a summer weekend game -- peak vs. off-peak, so to speak -- and the reality is as you get into the season things happen," said Dave Howard, Mets executive vice president for business operations. "Sometimes marketplaces will tell you that you probably should reduce this price even further, or you probably can raise the price here because the demand is very high because you have a key pitching matchup in a critical game. It just allows us to make real-time adjustments based on those factors."
Obviously, this allows the Mets to adjust tickets downward late in the 2012 season if the team is struggling and demand falls off. That way, fans interested in attending the game would still be enticed to buy the ticket from the Mets rather than go to the secondary marketplace such as an online ticket site -- where existing ticketholders may be dumping their tickets at prices lower than they originally paid.
According to Mets officials, the Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, Oakland Athletics, San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals already have used the dynamic pricing system. NBA and NHL teams also use that pricing system.
Howard said the Mets will take their cue in adjusting prices from several factors, including what tickets are selling for online from other outlets -- the so-called secondary market.
"The secondary market is pricing tickets differently and our prices have been static," Howard said. "We haven't been able to adjust them. Now we'll be able to adjust them as well. So that's one of the factors we'll look at -- to see what's going on there -- and a number of other factors. A key pitching matchup in a critical game would be a perfect example of where demand will pick up and that will be reflected in the price."
Unlike the secondary market -- where $5 might have bought you a seat for a late-season game this past year as the team struggled -- there will be a floor to the Mets' downward pricing adjustments. No one will be able to buy a single-game ticket from the team for lower than what season-ticket holders paid for a comparable seat.
"Season-ticket holders will be protected," Mets senior vice president David Newman said.
Howard said fans should respond positively to the pricing system.
"If they're more value-driven, they should be able to get more value," Howard said. "And if they're looking for a premium game, they might want to anticipate that early and get it before potentially the price rises."
Single-game tickets go on sale in March.
Howard said prices will, on average, be set lower than 2011 levels at the start, before market forces take over.
The Mets said the price of 80 percent of seats in season plans will be cut by at least five percent, including 57 percent that will be reduced by at least 10 percent. Thirty-five percent of seats will be lowered by at least 20 percent, including 18 percent that will drop by at least 30 percent. The biggest cuts are in the Ceasars Club and Promenade.
All season-ticket holders will be given access to the Caesars Club, Acela Club and Promenade Club.
In addition, the Champions Club, one level above field level, will become a members-only area where the ticket price includes food and nonalcoholic drinks -- much like the Legends Suite seats at new Yankee Stadium across town.
Home attendance dropped 8.1 percent from 2010-11 at Citi Field. The team drew 2.35 million spectators, its lowest attendance since 2004.
Adam Rubin covers the Mets for ESPNNewYork.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.