Friday, December 16, 2011

Premium Season Ticket Inventory Sold Out - how do I get those dang seats??

During the season, we get a lot of people in the stadium who ask how seats sell out so quickly in premium areas. I love that question! Here is why - we have a dedicated ticket sales and service staff that works hard to provide great customer service and renew existing season ticket holders early in the fall. Like any business, we have attrition - about 15% don't renew for various reasons (moving, change in personal economics, couldn't make as many games as they would like, they hate us, etc), so how is it that once again at Christmas time we are looking at a situation where premium seat inventory for season tickets is sold out? Sales and service - and the priority list!

From the first day we started selling tickets in December of 2009, we have kept a master list of the order in which fans bought season tickets. That list is dutifully maintained - when someone at the top of the list renews their season tickets, they preserve their spot in line. If someone on the list fails to renew by the designated date, they lose their seats and their spot in the list, while everyone behind them that has maintained moves up. "Maintaining priority" is just that - you have the priority to renew your existing seats, or if better ones are available when your time on the list arrives, you have the option to upgrade to those seats. It is a system that protects the loyalty of our most consistent customers.

The thought some in the community have is that "the list never changes" - that is not true! As I mentioned above, every year we have about 15% not renew for one reason or another. When we expanded the seating behind home plate in 2011, almost all of the new season ticket inventory went to folks who had maintained their place in the priority list. Once again, this renewal season saw some people who had wanted seats in a particular location get them - because they had maintained their place in the priority list by renewing. In the event of special events at Borleske Stadium or other Sweets events like the annual hot stove (working on a NW baseball legend for this year's event), we start first with fans on the priority list - ensuring that they get the first crack at the best inventory. A great example of this benefit was game one of the WCL Championship series in August - while many in the general public waited 1-2 hours in line for tickets at the Sweets Shoppe, season ticket holders already had their seats secured and paid for the day before, ready in will call or already printed at home. Considering we sold out the game in 18 hours, and more than 2,300 people were packed into the ballpark, season ticket holders had the hottest ticket in town in their hands before the rest of Walla Walla woke up the day tickets went on sale.

How do you get on the priority list? By buying season tickets - either premium seating (diamond, premier or field box seats), reserved seating (first base grandstand) or general admission seating (third base grandstand, outfield grandstand). In addition to saving over the price of tickets at the box office, they include great benefits that are in addition to the priority list. We are also enhancing benefits of season ticket holders this season (to be announced a little later this spring) to make it absolutely the best deal in Walla Walla for real summer entertainment. We also provide this handy list with ideas of how to utilize season tickets if you can't make it to every game.

Is this a shameless plug to get season tickets? Absolutely. With some of the top amateur players in the country coming to Walla Walla this summer (rumor has it that the general manager is in the final stages of signing the top three pitchers in the 2012 amateur draft, and of course the All-Star game will be here), if there was ever a season to dip your toes in the season ticket holder water, this would be it.

Have a great Christmas and holiday break - the sooner the new year turns, the sooner baseball will be back at Borleske!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How the new MLB Labor Agreement affects the Walla Walla Sweets

We often get asked if we are affiliated with any major league team; we are not. I take it as a compliment though that people think to ask. I believe that question is a reflection of the efforts our front office staff and game-day employees put into making the experience with the Sweets - from a fan perspective, from a player perspective and from a sponsor/partner perspective - feel like they are dealing with the quality that professional teams usually deliver.

However, our business on the field is affected by what happens at the big-league level. Typically not at the level that Mariners fans see on TV or in Safeco Field, but certainly at the player development level - the draft. Each year there are a handful of players on our roster that are wildcards in the sense that they are draft-eligible, and if they get offered enough or the situation is right for them, they sign professionally and don't play here. One example is a pitcher from our 2010 roster - Ryan Bean of Edmonds CC - who was scheduled to pitch in Walla Walla but signed after he was selected by the San Fransisco Giants in the 2010 amateur draft. We never saw Ryan - a roster spot had to be filled on short notice. While not a high-round draft pick, Ryan was the first example of how our roster changed dramatically because of the draft (Bean is a great kid - a good pitcher - and someone who was upfront with us in indicating that he would sign if the right situation arose - we signed him anyway).

MLB and the MLBPA just reached an agreement that means that baseball achieved labor peace for what will be 21 consecutive years (considering the state of their other big-league counterparts, kuddos...). Some of the changes at the draft/player development affect our level of baseball. The biggest change: a budget system for big-league clubs as to how much they can spend on their signing class, with fairly severe penalties for going over the allocated amounts. They instituted a similar system for international signings, but since we deal exclusively with college-eligible athletes it doesn't really affect us. They also eliminated compensation picks for free agent departures (in the past, if a MLB team signed a free agent - Type A or Type B - the team that was losing the player would receive compensation picks) (there is still a compensation process, but it is far more strict than what is currently in place and really reduces the amount of draft-pick stock-piling that occurred in recent years). Why all of this is significant: top high school prospects are more likely to choose to accept scholarships than to sign because these new regulations will likely drastically reduce what is being spent on draft picks - the biggest driving force behind ballplayers choosing to sign over going to school.  One NL scouting director noted in an article on that scouting amateur baseball (read: West Coast League) will be more beneficial (he said the Cape Cod League, but we'll assume that he is an East Coast guy!). He may have said it tongue-in-cheek, but it is nonetheless true. We'll have better talent at this level to work with.

Another important change is the signing deadline is moved to the middle of July (was the middle of August). It reduces the waiting game that agents like to play with big-league front offices. The benefit to the Sweets: a player who is drafted and eligible to sign will do so by the middle of the season, leaving us enough time to sign another player (if needed) for the pennant race and potential playoffs. Under the current system, we could lose a key player at the end of the season or right before a playoff start - too late to replace him on the roster.

As John Savage, the head coach at UCLA and someone who we have worked with to secure talent for the Sweets, noted in the BA article - this was not done to help college baseball. These changes were affected to help level the competitive balance between "large market" and "small market" teams and to ensure that revenue sharing dollars are being spent to improve the product that MLB clubs sell to their fans. But, as with everything in the world of baseball, there are ripple effects that affect what we do here in our little corner of SE Washington.

We continue to work to build the best summer collegiate program in the country - I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving and know that we are less than three months away from spring training starting (baseball isn't that far away!).

Friday, November 18, 2011

Shop Small Business Saturday...Yes!

Who wouldn't want one of these?!

We are a small business. We are neighbors with many small businesses on a quaint Main Street in Walla Walla, WA and shop each others stores. We know the owners of these small businesses - our kids go to school together, our families see each other at church, at restaurants, and at community activities. We hire friends and families of these small business owners to help our small business. It is amazing how inter-connected the "small business world" really is.

With the holiday season upon us, we are all excited and a little anxious. See, a bad season isn't just a poor ending to the could mean doors closing. All those friend and family connections mentioned above? Yep, a door closing on a small business in Walla Walla ripples through all of these relationships. I could write about how we shouldn't be materialistic, how the holidays aren't about gifts, etc. etc. (I do believe that we need to be less materialistic, and less about the gifts), but I enjoy getting people that I care about nice things, fun things, things that make them laugh and smile and remind them how much they mean to me. That isn't a bad thing! So, on Saturday, Nov. 26, people in Walla Walla have a chance to make a difference doing something they are going to do anyways - shopping for gifts for friends and family, but mixing in a visit to all of the unique and creative shops that line our Main St. corridor. A good book from Book and Game, a new pair of kicks from Lost Board Room, or a new Sweets cap or sweatshirt - these are things that keep locally-owned stores in business and make the people that you love smile when you give it to them. We'll be open - and we'll look forward to seeing you!


We are constantly refreshing our website and the content that allows people to connect to the team. One idea that our new marketing director Katie Baxter thought of was using our staff bios to tell our fans more about the wonderful people that make us "go". It was very cool learning about people that I work next to every single day...we have some some amazing people! They aren't all updated - but we are almost done, so check them out here: STAFF BIOS.