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updated: 10/18/2012 5:06 PM

White Sox slash ticket prices; payroll next?

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  • The White Sox failed to draw 2 million fans last season, and now team officials have decided to reduce season ticket prices and parking fees to attract more fans.

      The White Sox failed to draw 2 million fans last season, and now team officials have decided to reduce season ticket prices and parking fees to attract more fans.
    Associated Press file

 
 

To the 1,965,955 that made it out to U.S. Cellular Field this season, the White Sox extend a hearty thank you.

"The fans that we had to games were absolutely terrific and created a good atmosphere," said Brooks Boyer, the Sox' director of marketing and sales.

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To the 1 million or so other fans that stayed away from the Cell, the White Sox want you back.

Even though they led the AL Central for most of the season -- 116 days in all -- the Sox flopped at the gate.

Not only did the White Sox rank 24th out of 30 major-league teams in total attendance, they failed to crack the 2 million mark for the first time since 2004.

That was Ozzie Guillen's first year as manager, and this was the sixth straight season the Sox' attendance declined.

"The myth had always been that if the White Sox played well and were at the top of the division we would draw really well," Boyer said in a phone interview. "That was debunked a little bit this year."

In an attempt to reverse the trend, the Sox announced Thursday they are slashing most ticket prices for 2013.

Before we get into specific pricing details, it's important to consider the damage caused by all of the empty seats this season.

Since assuming control of the White Sox in 1981, chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has splurged on players (Albert Belle, Mark Buehrle, Paul Konerko, Jake Peavy, John Danks) from time to time, but breaking even has always been the primary goal.

The White Sox spent $128 million on players in 2011 and drew 2,001,262. They trimmed $30 million off the payroll in 2012, and now you have to wonder how much deeper they're going to cut after another disappointing turnout.

"Under our model, the revenue generated goes back out into the field," Boyer said. "Obviously, Jerry determines what that payroll is going to look like. But we were able to support the payroll this year."

With teams like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and L.A. Angels reportedly raking in over $200 million a year on broadcasting rights, it's not like the White Sox are in danger of going belly up.

While they don't rake in the big TV/radio money like the Yankees and Dodgers, the Sox play in the third-largest market in the country, and they're able to pay players like Danks $65 million over five years.

But with players such as Peavy, A.J. Pierzynski, Kevin Youkilis and Gavin Floyd eligible for free agency, don't be surprised if the White Sox let them all walk in favor of younger, cheaper replacements.

There are plenty of decisions to be made, but the Sox are already tackling the ongoing attendance issue.

• More than 87 percent of all full season tickets for the 2013 season are either dropping in price or staying the same. The White Sox say more than 54 percent of the full season tickets are dropping an average of 26 percent.

• Full season tickets will be available for as low as $810 per seat and split season ticket plans for as low as $297 per seat, both in upper reserved.

• As for single-game tickets, corner seats in the lower deck will be available for $20 per game and upper deck corner seats will be available for $7 all season (excluding Opening Day and the two Cubs games in May).

There are nearly 5,000 lower and upper corner seats at the Cell.

• Parking is going to be $20 next season, down from $25 and $23.

"Obviously, it's a kick to the gut when you go down each year with attendance," Boyer said. "You never want to see attendance decline. Fans make a difference, and for fans to help create the atmosphere we want to have here at the ballpark, we knew it was going to take a very aggressive stance by us to be able to start getting those fans to come out to the ballpark, or to come back.

"We feel like we're going to take the momentum the team has generated from this season and carry it over to next year."

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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