Season ticket renewals on upswing


The Pirates saw season ticket renewals increase by 6 percent in 2012 and are expecting similar growth next season. “We are pacing significantly ahead of last year’s pace, which was significantly above the previous year’s pace,” team prez Frank Coonelly told me Wednesday. As usual, Coonelly declined to divulge specific numbers. Season tickets are the backbone of a club’s attendance figures and play a role in short- and long-range business planning. The club had been struggling to retain season ticket holders and luxury suite owners until 2011, when the Pirates showed signs of life in the NL Central race. They were in the hunt again most of last season, so it’s no surprise season ticket sales are headed up again. “Not withstanding the fact that we didn’t finish the season the way we wanted to, there are many positives taking place with the club,” Coonelly said. “Our fans turned out in record numbers last year, with the second-highest attendance in the history of the franchise. People are excited about what we can do in 2013 and looking forward to our guys getting over the hump and finally finishing the way we know we can.”

»»» Overall, the Pirates drew 2,091,918 last season, the fourth time they’ve surpassed the 2 million mark. Coonelly stands by his assessment from a couple of year ago, when he said 2 million needs to be a starting point for attendance every season. “Over the last two years, we have seen significant growth in many of the areas of our business, but most importantly in ticket sales,” Coonelly said. “It’s our job to continue to grow that, because we’re still not where we need to be. Nobody’s resting on their laurels. We appreciate what the fans have done for us, in terms of turning out for the Pirates in 2011 and 2012, and we’re looking to build on that. We still have work to do to get ourselves into a position to generate the types of revenues necessary to sustain a championship-caliber team.”

»»» So, if attendance goes up, does the player payroll naturally follow? Yes and no, Coonelly said. “There is never a one-on-one correlation,” Coonelly said. “There are other expenses for the club than payroll — the entire development system, the scouting system. With the changes to the way the amateur draft and international scouting is working … while those are areas where we can’t invest as much money on the bonus side as we used to, it’s even more critical that our scouting and development is better than anybody else’s, so we need to make investments there. We also need to invest in PNC Park. We’re now moving into the 12th year at PNC Park, and it’s our obligation that we keep it the best ballpark in America. There are capital expenses there. The commitment is to reinvest the dollars we generate back into the team. I think we’ve demonstrated that we do exactly that over the past two years. Payroll has increased significantly, as well as (spending) in other areas. That will continue to be the case. It’s not always a one-on-one that every dollar generated goes into payroll. Sometimes, the dollars have to go elsewhere, but they’re all being invested back into the team.”

»»» Coonelly hinted a new, state-of-the-art scoreboard is coming soon to PNC Park. “It won’t be this offseason,” Coonelly said. “But, PNC Park and our fans deserve to have a scoreboard that is one of the best in the industry, and we’re working on a plan to provide that.”