Despite dire prospects for the upcoming Phillies season and sub-zero wind chills, Tom O’Neill never considered passing on his winter pilgrimage to Citizens Bank Park for the first day of individual game ticket sales.
“My dad is 85 years old and this is something he looks forward to every year,” said the South Philadelphia native. “We bought tickets in Section 325 for a few games. It’s not always about the team winning and losing. It’s about the experience and getting together with friends and family.”
Last year, the O’Neills were 109th in line for tickets when they got to the ballpark. In 2013, their number was closer to 300.
“Because I dropped my mother off at the hairdresser’s, I said, ‘Oh, God, we’re going to be late, we’re going to be so far back in line,’” Tom said. “We pulled up and there was nobody there. There must have been three or four people.”
Three years removed from a winning season with a roster in flux, the Phillies know they are in for another “show me” season at the box office.
After leading Major League Baseball in attendance in 2011 and 2012, the Phillies slipped to eighth in 2013 and 16th last season, when they drew 2,423,582 to Citizens Bank Park. It was the first time the team failed to draw 3 million fans since 2006 and the only time per-game attendance has dipped below 30,000 in the Citizens Bank Park era.
The team’s season ticket base, which stood at 24,500 two years ago, now hovers around 13,000.
“We’ve had fantastic fan support here in Philadelphia ever since moving to Citizens Bank Park,” said Phillies Vice President of Sales and Ticket Operations John Weber. “Obviously, we’re in a little bit of a transition year, Ruben (Amaro) and Pat (Gillick) have talked about that, but we’re all in this together.
“We are reaching out to as many people as we can.”
The Phillies open their regular season April 6 with an afternoon home game against the Red Sox. An “Opening Night” T-shirt giveaway and the first of four Hatfield Dollar Dog Nights follows on April 8 and 9.
Fans 14 and under can take advantage of a Phillies backpack giveaway April 12, Phanatic baseball socks on April 26, a Phillies bucket hat May 31 and run the bases on May 30, July 22 and Aug. 6. Fireworks games are scheduled for July 1 and 2 when the Brewers come to town.
“Our promotions are something we have always taken pride in, even when the team was doing very well, and that will continue this year,” Weber said.
The Phillies opted not to raise prices for a third straight year and are sticking with a tiered pricing plan that puts 61 of 81 home games at one price point and the 20 remaining games slightly higher or lower.
For the majority of games, admission will range from $17 (standing room only) to $75 (Hall of Fame Club). There are discount opportunities available throughout the season, including a dozen student discount dates and other games where military personnel, seniors, nurses and groups can save a few bucks.
“That’s one thing about the ballpark this year,” Weber said. “We have seats that are available that have not been available in the 11 years of Citizens Bank Park.”
The Phillies had the usual spread of complimentary coffee, juice, pastries and fruit waiting for the fans who braved Thursday’s cold. They also handed out free bobbleheads and made sure to thank everyone for their business.
The O’Neills hopped back into their car with a Chase Utley bobblehead and reservations for summer.
“It’s a great ballpark,” said Jack, who grew up watching the Phillies at Shibe Park. “There’s nothing like watching the game and having a steak and a few beers.”