G-Braves ticket prices steep
Highest-priced season passes range up to $2,500 per seat

The announcement the Atlanta Braves' Triple-A farm team was moving from Richmond, Va., to Gwinnett County was met with much enthusiasm when it was made back in January.

The announcement of season ticket prices to see the Gwinnett Braves beginning next spring was met with a more mixed reaction when it was made earlier this month.

Braves team officials have received some complaints and concerns in the form of phone calls and e-mails from fans who put down $100 deposits for season tickets over the last five months since prices were released.

However, G-Braves officials are encouraged by the approximately 1,400 deposits they've received so far.

"It's certainly a great response, said Toby Wyman, assistant general manager for business operations for the Richmond Braves, who will retain the same position when the move to Gwinnett is made next year. "We've begun to call the people on our list to start to get seat preferences. Overall, the response has been positive."

Still, some fans who put down deposits were surprised to learn their season tickets could cost as much as $2,500 per seat for the G-Braves' 72-game home schedule at the new stadium off Buford Drive beginning next spring.

Even the cheapest section of the Braves' season tickets ($500) cost more than what fans are paying for the most expensive seats ($432) in the team's final season in Richmond.

"I like the idea of having a minor league team (in Gwinnett)," said Lee Baker, Executive Director of the Gwinnett Sports Council. "(But) I thought (season ticket prices) were high, as I guess a lot of people did. I was suprised at the price, and I guess disappointed."

However, Wyman says there is a very good reason for the disparity in prices in seeing the Braves in their future home in Gwinnett compared to their home in Richmond.

"People like to compare our prices to Richmond," Wyman said. "But with Richmond, the prices were lower because we couldn't offer fans the amenities in the stadium we'll have (in Gwinnett).

"Even if we'd gotten a new stadium (in Richmond), we probably would've reassessed our ticket prices there. The condition of the ballpark (helped dictate what the prices are this season)."

There are plenty of amenities that will contribute to the price of the G-Braves' most expensive tickets next season.

Fans who pay $2,500 per seat to sit in the first row behind the plate ($2,000 per seat for the next three rows) will have a private entrance, a parking pass for every two seats purchased and access to a club lounge as part their package.

Similar amenities will be available in the block of seats behind the home dugout, which will run $1,100 per seat.

Those two most expensive groups of seats make up just a combined 560 of the 7,160 seats - or roughly 12.8 percent - on the grandstand of the stadium that are available for season ticket purchase.

Taking those seats out of the equation, seats in many other areas of the stadium will still set potential season-ticket holders back a pretty good chunk of change.

A little more than half of the remaining seats in the grandstand in the Infield Box section - approximately 3,600 of them - will be available at $950 per seat.

That averages out to $13.19 per seat per game over a 72-game home schedule. Expand that number out to a family of four, and some fans could be shelling out an average of $61.11 per game, and that's not including parking and concessions.

"That sounds like an incredible bargain to me," said Richard Tucker, Chairman of the Gwinnett Convention and Visitors Bureau board, which entered into the contract agreement. "I think that's very reasonably priced for family entertainment."

Those prices - as well as the Field Box section that will be priced at $725 per seat and the Baseline Box section that will be $500 per seat - run among the higher end among those for teams in both of Triple-A's leagues - the International League and the Pacific Coast League. General admission tickets to the grassy berms beyond the outfield fence will be sold as single-game tickets only.

However, a closer look at each team's season ticket prices in the International League and the PCL reveals the G-Braves' prices are not necessarily out of line for Triple-A baseball.

Several teams, including the International League's Lehigh Valley IronPigs and the Fresno Grizzlies, Memphis Redbirds, Oklahoma Red Hawks, Portland Beavers, Round Rock Express and Salt Lake Bees of the PCL have prices for premium and non-premium seats comparable - and in some cases - exceeding those proposed by the G-Braves.

"Our approach to how we came upon our prices is we compared with other Triple-A markets," Wyman said. "If you take out our home plate and club seats - and those are a limited amount of seats - our prices average about $7 to $16 per game. That compares to about $6 to $18 per game (for the rest of Triple-A). Like any business, we look at the market we're going to."

Those prices are also put G-Braves season tickets considerably below most of those sold by their parent club, the Atlanta Braves.

While the National League team has packages for their 83-game home schedule (including two preseason exhibition games) at Turner Field as little as $3 to $10 to $12 per game, those seats are considerably farther away from the field than any seat in the G-Braves' future stadium. Most Atlanta Braves season-ticket packages range from $22-$60 per game, or from $1,826-$4,980 for the full season.

Still, Tucker acknowleged the G-Braves ticket prices could be a concern in the slow economy that includes record gasoline prices and other factors squeezing potential fans.

"It'll have some impact on ticket sales and suite sales," Tucker said, also noting the expense of bringing a family of four to the stadium. "They may have to think twice about that because the same money would buy a tank of gas."

Wyman admits he has received e-mails from some people who put down deposits concerned about season ticket prices, including some who have demanded refunds.

But recognizing the current economic climate, Wyman says the G-Braves will have options for fans who feel prices are too high - among them partial-season ticket packages and lower single-game ticket prices in certain sections.

"A few people have been vocal in (demanding refunds)," Wyman said. "And we'll handle that. But there have been more people asking about mini-plans and wanting to apply their deposits to that area."

Offering such options would be a step Gwinnett County Commissioner Bert Nasuti, whose district includes Norcross and Berkmar and who led the effort to bring minor league baseball to Gwinnett, would be happy to see the G-Braves take.

"Their marketing studies tell them ... there is a mix of demand," Nasuti said. "It's driven by a desire to offer different customers different opportunities."

He added he is interested in different options himself, noting the premium seats would be more ideal for clients of his law firm, while his young children would be happier having a picnic on the berm behind the outfield.

Nasuti also said he trusts the Braves' marketing experts, adding the team has a vested interest in selling out the stadium as much as the county, which will receive a $1 per ticket fee to help pay back debt on the $45 million stadium.

"They've tried to come up with a mix of opportunities for everyone," Nasuti said.

Wyman said prices for the partial-season plans and single game tickets will be set soon after processing and situating requests for full season tickets.

"Obviously, it's important to look at (setting affordable prices), and our mini-plans and individual game tickets," Wyman said. "We're going to have approximately 3,000 seats priced between $5 and $9, but we haven't set the individual game ticket (prices) yet.

"We can't offer those until we go through the deposits and see where our (full) season ticket holders are going to be located. We will have options."

Senior writer Camie Young contributed to this story.