Hal Steinbrenner addresses ticket prices

NEW YORK -- Sitting in new Yankee Stadium on the first day fans came to the $1.5 billion ballpark, managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner admitted some tickets might be overpriced given the recession but insisted the team read the market correctly for most of them.

The Yankees set prices for premium Legends Suites seats 13 months ago and sold them for $500 to $2,500 as part of season tickets. According to the team's Web site, some of those seats remain available for individual games, when the prices go up to $2,625.

"I think if anybody in any business had known where this economy was going to go, they would have done things differently," Steinbrenner said Thursday. "Look, there's no doubt small amounts of our tickets might be overpriced.

"You know, we're continuing to look into that. But the bottom line is, the vast majority of them, it seems like they're right on because we've sold 35,000 full-season equivalents, and a lot of the tickets have, you know, sold quite well. And, well, despite what's out there all the time ... there's thousands of very affordable seating. And, you know, the public is excited, as excited as we are, I think."

Legends Suites seats include food and soft drinks in three exclusive restaurants, but not alcohol.

The ballpark was open for a workout Thursday, a day before the Yankees host the Chicago Cubs in an exhibition game.

The Team Marketing Report released its annual survey Thursday and said the average price of a Yankees home ticket was a major league-high $72.97, a 76.3 percent increase from last year's $41.40.

The Boston Red Sox, who had been first for 13 consecutive years, were next at $50.24 following a 0.3 percent rise. The Cubs were third at $47.75 after a 10 percent hike, followed by the New York Mets, who rose 8.6 percent to $36.99 for their first season at Citi Field.

The Arizona Diamondbacks had a major league-low average for the third consecutive year, at $14.31, with the Pittsburgh Pirates at $15.39, Atlanta Braves at $17.05 and AL champion Tampa Bay Rays at $18.35.

The major league average of $26.64 was up 5 percent from $25.37, less than half last year's 10.1 percent hike.

Among premium seats, the Yankees topped the majors at $510.08, followed by the Cubs ($239.43), Los Angeles Angels ($222.38), Washington Nationals ($192.89), Red Sox ($162.82) and Mets ($149.54). The Colorado Rockies were the major league low at $36.50, with the Milwaukee Brewers at $38.65.

TMR's fan cost index went up 3.2 percent to $196.89, ranging from $410.88 at Yankee Stadium and $326.45 at Fenway Park to $114.245 in Arizona. The figure includes two adult tickets at the average price, two child tickets at the average if available, two beers, four soft drinks, four hot dogs, parking, two programs and two adult caps.

Steinbrenner pointed out that Yankee Stadium also has inexpensive seats ranging to as little as $5 for partial-view bleachers.

"We understand that a lot of our fans are struggling. I mean, this is the worst recession in most of our lifetimes," he said. "But at the same time I think baseball has always been an escape for people, you know? And I think what we're going to provide here is an unbelievable experience for thousands and thousands of our fans that, despite the troubles they're going through right now, maybe they'll be able to get away for two or three hours, get their minds off things. And we're going to make that experience, you know, tremendous."

In the Yankees' new oval clubhouse, left fielder Johnny Damon said the ticket prices reflected the team's popularity.

"It's tough. New York can withstand it," he said. "Coming to this plush building, I think it's definitely something that people want to see. I mean, those are great seats. It's going to be tough for a family to afford but, you know, but we'll let the people upstairs worry about that."